There is increasing concern about how eating ultra-processed food impacts health. Previous studies have linked them to an increased risk for cardiovascular diseases, and inflammatory bowel disease. Now a new study shows that eating more ultra-processed foods (UPFs) could be linked to a higher risk of developing mouth, throat and oesophagus cancers.
UlPGs refer to packaged baked goods and snacks, sugary cereals, and ready-to-eat or heat products, which often contain high levels of added sugar and salt, but lack nutrients. The study, led by researchers from the University of Bristol, analysed diet and lifestyle data on 450,111 adults who were followed for about 14 years. The results show that obesity, often linked to the consumption of UPFs, may not be the only factor to blame, the university’s press statement reveals.
The results showed that eating 10% more UPFs is linked to a 23% higher risk of head and neck cancer and a 24% higher risk of oesophageal adenocarcinoma. Notably, an increase in body fat could explain a small proportion of the association between UPF consumption and the risk of these upper-aerodigestive tract cancers, the statement explains. The study was published in European Journal of Nutrition.
UPFs are palatable, convenient, and cheap, but consuming large amounts of them is linked to several health risks. “This study adds to a growing pool of evidence suggesting a link between UPFs and cancer risk. The association between higher consumption of UPFs and an increased risk of developing upper-aerodigestive tract cancer supports our Cancer Prevention Recommendations to eat a healthy diet, rich in whole grains, vegetables, fruit, and beans,” Helen Crocker, Assistant Director of Research and Policy at the World Cancer Research Fund said in the statement.
As the results indicated that fat did not significantly explain the link between UPF consumption and upper-aerodigestive tract cancer risk, focusing only on weight loss treatment might not be the right approach to prevent the risks, the researchers suggest.
Along with physical health, previous research has shown that UPFs can also affect mental health. A study, published in the Journal of Affective Disorders in May, has shown that a daily diet that includes over 30 per cent of ultra-processed food is associated with a significant risk of depression.
To keep these health risks at bay, researchers have suggested avoiding ultra-processed food and focusing on maintaining balanced meals.