New study suggests a link between cancer and “ultra-processed” foods such as cookies, fizzy drinks and sugary cereals, some other experts cautioned against reading too much into the study results.
Researchers from France and Brazil used data from nearly 105,000 French adults who completed online questionnaires detailing their intake of 3,300 different food items. This was compared to cases of diagnosed cancer among the group.
“The results show that a 10% increase in the proportion of ultra-processed foods in the diet was associated with increases of 12 percent in the risk of overall cancer and 11 percent in the risk of breast cancer,” said a press statement from The BMJ which published the research.
About 189,910 new cancer cases were expected to be diagnosed among blacks in 2016. The most commonly diagnosed cancers among black men are prostate (31% of all cancers), lung (15%), and colon and rectum (9%). Among black women, the most common cancers are breast (32% of all cancers), lung (11%), and colon and rectum (9%) – ACS
According to WHO, cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide, recording over 8.8 million deaths in 2015. The most common causes of cancer death are cancers of: Lung (1.69 million deaths), Liver (788 000 deaths), Colorectal (774 000 deaths), Stomach (754 000 deaths), Breast (571 000 deaths)
Although no significant association was found for prostate or colorectal cancer in the study.
The researchers analyzed data from people who completed questionnaires about the foods that they consumed over 24 hours on at least two occasions. The detail gathered allowed them to measure typical intake of 3,300 different foods.
The study gave a list of foods including, packaged breads, buns, pizzas and cakes, crisps, industrially-produced desserts, sodas, fish and chicken nuggets, instant noodles and soups, and frozen ready meals.
Previous research had linked processed foods high in sugar, fat, and salt to obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, but firm evidence for increased disease risk has been “scarce”, the team said.
They stressed their research showed no more than a correlation between a diet high in ultra-processed foods and cancer. This could be coincidental and does not prove conclusively that these types of food actively cause cancer.
Ian Johnson, a nutrition researcher from the Quadram Institute Bioscience in England, said the authors identified “some rather weak associations, of low statistical significance.”
“The problem is that the definition of ultra-processed foods they have used is so broad and poorly defined that it is impossible to decide exactly what, if any, causal connections have been observed,” he said in comments via the Science Media Centre.
Tom Sanders of the King’s College London agreed that the term “ultra-processed food” was “difficult to define”.
“The definition excludes many home-made or artisanal foods such as bread, cakes, biscuits, butter, meat, cheese, tinned fruit and vegetables as well as sugar and salt used in domestic food preparation,”