Highly Processed Food is “Cancer Risk”

Consuming foods such as chicken nuggets, ready meals and mass-produced bakery goods may significantly increase the risk of developing cancer, according to new French research.

Following the eating habits of people over the last five years, their study (reported in the British Medical Journal) stated that a 10% increase in the proportion of ultra-processed foods in the diet was associated with a ‘significant increase’ of greater than 10% in risks of overall and breast cancer.

Other types of ultra-processed foods include crisps, instant noodles, mass-produced packaged breads – and foods made mostly or entirely from sugar, oils and fats.

“After undergoing multiple physical, biological and/or chemical processes, these ultra-processed food products are conceived to be micro biologically safe, convenient, highly palatable and affordable” said the BMJ report.  however,  some scientists have issued a note of caution.  “The terms ‘ultra-processed’ is difficult to define in terms of food quality.  It is not widely used by nutritional scientists” says Tom Sanders, professor emeritus of nutrition and dietetics, Kings College London.

“From a nutritional standpoint, the classification seems arbitrary and based on the premise that food produced industrially has a different nutritional and chemical composition to that produced in the home or by artisans.  This is not the case.  The approach of categorising dietary patterns that depend on industrially processed food in relation to disease risk is novel but probably needs refining before it can be translated into practical dietary advice”.

The research was adjusted to take into account such factors as age, sex, BMI, height, physical activity, smoking, family history of cancer and education.  Tam Fry of the National Obesity Forum, said “We should heed the warnings. Huge quantities of everyday processed food have excessive levels of sugar, fat and salt stuffed into them”.