Ultra-processed foods increase risk of heart attack and colorectal cancer

THE ESSENTIAL

  • Two new studies from the British Medical Journal have observed an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and colorectal cancer in people with a high consumption of ultra-processed products.
  • According to the first research, men who consumed ultra-processed products daily and frequently had a 29% higher risk of developing colorectal cancer.

A healthy and balanced diet is one of the keys to good health. It is therefore better to avoid ultra-processed food products that can be found in supermarkets. This is particularly the case for cereals, prepared meals, sodas or snacks.

For several years, various studies have affirmed that a high consumption of ultra-processed foods could increase the risk of obesity, high blood pressure, cholesterol or even certain cancers. On August 31, 2022, the British Medical Journal (BMJ) unveiled two new studies which highlighted the link between ultra-processed foods and the increased risk of certain serious pathologies, and therefore of mortality.

Ultra-processed diet increases risk of colorectal cancer

In the first study, researchers analyzed the association of ultra-processed food with the risk of colorectal cancer in American adults. They therefore studied the data of 46,341 men and 159,907 women from three large studies led by health professionals practicing in the United States. Participants’ dietary intakes were assessed every four years through questionnaires.

Foods have been divided into several groups based on their degree of processing. Colorectal cancer rates were measured over a period of 24 to 28 years taking into account medical factors and the lifestyle of the volunteers. Result: men who consumed ultra-processed products daily and frequently had a 29% higher risk of developing colorectal cancer. However, no association was observed between ultra-processed foods and an increased risk of colorectal cancer in women.

Limit your consumption of ultra-processed products

Concerning the second study, the scientists analyzed two food classification systems according to mortality: the Food Standards Agency (FSAm-NPS) which makes it possible to obtain the Nutri-Score color code by scanning the label of the packaging, and the NOVA scale which determines the degree of food processing. For this research, they also used data from the Moli-sani study which studied genetic and environmental risk factors for heart disease in 22,895 Italian adults over a period of 14 years (2005 to 2019).

Conclusion: Individuals in the highest quarter of the FSAm-NPS index, in other words having a deleterious diet, have a 32% higher risk of death from cardiovascular disease compared to participants who have a diet healthy and in the lowest quarter of the FSAm-NPS index.

The scientific teams indicated that their findings showed the importance of reducing the consumption of ultra-processed foods to promote longevity as well as to limit the onset of cardiovascular disease and colorectal cancer. However, the results of these two studies should be taken with a grain of salt, as they are based solely on observation. It is therefore possible that certain risks are induced by other factors which have not been taken into account.


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