- Researchers say ultra-processed foods increase the risk of colorectal cancer in men, but they have not found any increased risk in women.
- Experts say ultra-processed foods contain sugars, oils and fats that can increase the risk of colorectal cancer.
- Additionally, they say these foods are low in nutrients that can help prevent colorectal cancer.
- They add that national programs that make it easier for people to buy healthy foods should be implemented.
There has been a lot of discussion in recent years about the amount of ultra-processed foods that can increase a person’s chances of developing cancer.
Researchers from Tufts University and Harvard University in Massachusetts reported that men who ate high amounts of ultra-processed foods were 29% more likely to develop colorectal cancer compared to men who ate significantly less.
They did not find the same association in women.
Colorectal cancer is
Previous studies have linked ultra-processed foods to a higher risk of heart disease as well as inflammatory bowel disease and obesity, but few studies have evaluated the relationship between ultra-processed foods and colorectal cancer risk.
The latest findings are based on research of more than 46,000 men and nearly 160,000 women from three large studies of healthcare professionals in the United States whose food intake was assessed every four years using detailed food frequency questionnaires.
Most foods are processed to some extent, but ultra-processed foods are considered the most harmful to your health.
In the new study, these foods were listed as soft drinks, sausages, cookies, candy, instant soups/noodles, sweet/salty encapsulated snacks, sugary milk-based drinks and fruits.
Researchers note that these foods often contain high levels of added sugar, fat, and/or salt as well as deficiencies in vitamins and fiber.
Researchers haven’t specifically identified the exact mechanism linking ultra-processed foods to an increased risk of colorectal cancer, but scientists have some hypotheses.
“Ultra-processed foods are typically high in added sugar, oils/fats, and refined starch, which unfavorably alters microbiota composition in the gut and contributes to an increased risk of overweight and obesity.” Overweight and obesity are identified risk factors for colorectal cancer. Lu WangPh.D., a postdoctoral fellow in the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University and lead author of the study.
“Ultra-processed foods are low in nutrients and bioactive compounds that are beneficial for colorectal cancer prevention, such as fiber, calcium, and vitamin D. Ultra-processed foods consist of (most) processed meat, which is an established risk factor for colorectal cancer,” she told Healthline.
In addition to poor nutrition profiles, Wang noted that ultra-processed foods typically contain food additives such as food emulsifiers and artificial sweeteners, some of which have been suggested to increase the pro-inflammatory capacity of the gut microbiome, which may promote colon carcinogenesis.
“We find those subgroups of ultra-processed foods. Including processed meat products such as sausages, salami and sausages as well as sugar-sweetened beverages, they are particularly associated with the risk of colorectal cancer.”
Wang added that the study is further evidence of the need for policies that limit ultra-processed foods and instead promote the intake of unprocessed or minimally processed foods to improve overall health.
Wang said she would like to see some kind of national legislation mandating more affordable and healthy food.
Wang said it is important to make healthy and affordable foods available to everyone to encourage people to replace ultra-processed foods with healthy fresh products.
“We’ve seen programs like ‘prescription production’ to make healthy and affordable foods available to vulnerable groups,” she said.
Another option, Wang added, is to place mandatory food labels on the front of the package, “such as mandatory labeling of calories on the menu, which would incentivize the food industry and food vendors to provide healthy food.”
Another issue, which she said certainly does not help, is the “persistent, unregulated aggressive marketing and large subsidies received by large corporations that take advantage of [ultra-processed foods]. ”
Carlos A. MonteiroProfessor in the Department of Nutrition at the School of Public Health at the University of São Paulo, Brazil, co-author of an article
Another important issue, he told Montero Healthline, is the unregulated marketing of ultra-processed foods and the huge subsidies that companies that benefit from them receive.
“Everyone needs food, but nobody needs ultra-processed foods,” he said.
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