How does the quality of our food affect the risk of cancer?
Researchers have now found that so-called ultra-processed foods could have a large share in the development of cancer. Such food is often accompanied by tons of additives, preservatives, flavors and colors during production. These seem to be involved in the development of cancer.
Scientists at the Sorbonne Paris Cité Epidemiology and Statistics Research Center (CRESS) in France found in their investigation that eating highly processed foods increases the likelihood of developing cancer. The doctors published the results of their study in the English-language journal "British Medical Journal" (BMJ).
What is in our food?
So-called ultra-processed foods often contain a myriad of ingredients and ingredients that are not used in normal kitchens. Most of them have probably never seen cooks in their pure form in their lives. If you go to the supermarket and look at the list of ingredients in many finished products, you will notice that this list is usually very long. For example, it contains various additives, preservatives, colors, different flavors and often high amounts of sugar, fat and salt. Appropriate finished products make up a large part of the diet of many people.
Study included nearly 105,000 subjects
For their investigation, the researchers analyzed the medical records and eating habits of nearly 105,000 adults, all of whom were part of the French NutriNet-Santé cohort study. Overall, the regular consumption of about 3,300 different foods was recorded.
What was the impact of consumption?
The experts found that a 10 percent increase in the amount of ultra-processed foods consumed resulted in a 12 percent increase in cancer. The doctors also tried to determine whether there was an increase in certain types of cancer. An increase in breast cancer by 11 percent was observed, but there was no significant increase in colorectal or prostate cancer, the researchers say. Another independent study also found a few days ago that nutrition has so far had an unknown impact on breast cancer spread.
The consumption of unhealthy food is increasing
These results suggest that the generally rapidly increasing consumption of ultra-processed foods could lead to an increased cancer threat in the next few years. France is one of the few countries that warns its population against consuming high amounts of processed foods, says study author Mathilde Touvier from the Nutritional Epidemiology Research Team at the Sorbonne Paris Cité Epidemiology and Statistics Research Center.
Further research is needed
The results are very consistent and very convincing, the expert explains further. It is now a matter of acting as a precaution. The doctors do not want to worry or unsettle consumers. The results must also be checked in other prospective studies.
Where does the term ultra-processed food come from?
The term ultra-processed food was originally developed by Professor Carlos Monteiro in Brazil. In this country there is a classification system for food, which divides it into four different groups. Raw or minimally processed foods including, seeds, fruits, eggs and milk. Another group includes processed culinary ingredients such as oil and butter. The third group contains processed foods including canned vegetables, canned fish and cheese. The fourth group then contains the so-called ultra-processed foods.
The mechanism behind the risk of cancer needs to be understood
Most healthy nutrients are lost in the production of ultra-processed foods. But the low nutritional values of cookies, confectionery and cheese are not the only cause of the increased risk of cancer, say the experts. It has to be checked whether an increase in cancer risk is solely due to the high levels of sugar, fat and salt or possibly the additives. It is important to understand the mechanism behind the increased risk. Perhaps in the future, research will show that only one or two molecules are the problem and not all ultra-processed foods, the researchers add.
Created database should facilitate research
Through a comprehensive database with all additives in specific foods, sorted by trade names and brands, the scientists will be able to quantify the chronic exposure of the food additives in the coming years. The medicines explain the effects of the food alone and in combination with other additives in order to determine a possible cocktail effect. (as)