BOSTON— Junk food is unquestionably an unhealthy choice when it comes to nutritious eating. However, a new study reveals just how dangerous eating ‘ultra-processed’ foods is – finding an increased risk of cancer, heart disease and premature death.
Tufts University and Italian researchers compared the consumption of ultra-processed foods in 46,341 men and 159,907 women to cancer data collected in several studies. The findings, published in The BMJfound definitive links between high consumption of ultra-processed foods and increased risks of cardiovascular disease, colorectal cancer, and even premature death.
Some of the most common ultra-processed foods include sugary drinks, chips, candy bars, fast food and even breakfast cereals.
Men in the top 20% of ultra-processed food consumption had a 29% increased likelihood of developing colorectal cancer. This number remained high even after taking into account body mass index (BMI) and lifestyle factors such as smoking.
Junk food could increase heart disease risk by a third
A second study analyzed in the BMJ’s recent findings showed that people who consumed the most ultra-processed foods and drinks had a 19% higher risk of death from disease. They were 32% more likely to die from a heart disease.
A group of Brazilian researchers in 2009 described ultra-processed foods as “industrial formulations with five or more ingredients”. These foods also include energy drinks, fried chicken, and white bread.
Cardiovascular death rates were almost a fifth higher for people with extremely high intakes of ultra-processed foods in all studies. Rates of colorectal cancer and even breast cancer were significantly higher in people whose consumption of ultra-processed foods was higher than average.
On the other hand, Harvard Medical School defines unprocessed products or minimally processed foods as “whole foods in which the vitamins and nutrients are still intact…can be minimally modified by the removal of inedible parts, drying, grinding, roasting, boiling, freezing, or pasteurizing to make them suitable for storage and safe to consume”.
This is far from the first study to link processed foods and beverages to increased health risks. A 2018 European dietary analysis of more than 104,000 people found multiple associations between consumption of ultra-processed foods and overall diagnoses of breast, prostate and colorectal cancer. This study found a link between a 10% increase in ultra-processed foods and a 10% increase in the number of participants. overall breast cancer risk.
In an editorial, the researchers claim that “no one in their right mind wants foods that cause disease.” Their solution is to make fresh food supplies available, more attractive and inexpensive.
“Passed, it will promote public health. It will also feed families, society, economies and the environment,” the researchers conclude in a Press release.