Two large studies published by The BMJ today find links between high consumption of ultra-processed foods and increased risks of c🍰ardiovascular disease,⛄ colorectal cancer and death.
The findings add further evidence in support of policies that limit ultra-processed foods and instead promote eating unprocessed or minimal💛ly-process𒈔ed foods to improve public health worldwide.
They also reinforce the opportunity to reformula✱te dietary guidelines worldwide, by paying more attention to the degree of processing of foods along with nutrient-based recommendations.
Ultra-🏅processed foods include packaged baked goods and snacks, fizzy drinks, sugary cereals, and ready-to-eat or heat products, often containing high levels of added sugar, fat, and/or salt, but lacking in vitamins and fiber.
Previous studies hav๊e linked ultra-processed foods to higher risks of obesity, high blood pressure, cholesterol, and some cancers, but few studies have assessed the association between ultra-processed food intake and colorectal cancer risk, and findings are mixed due to limitations in study design and sample sizes.
In the , researchers exam𓄧ined the association between consumption of ultra-pr♚ocessed foods and risk of colorectal cancer in US adults.
Their findings are based on 46,341 men and🐻 159,907 women from th♏ree large studies of US health professionals whose dietary intake was assessed every four years using detailed food frequency questionnaires.
Foods were grouped by degree of processing and rates of c🐎olorectal cancer were measu🎃red over a period of 24-28 years, taking into account medical and lifestyle factors.
Results show ♑that compared with those in the ജlowest fifth of ultra-processed food consumption, men in the highest fifth of consumption had a 29% higher risk of developing colorectal cancer, which remained significant after further adjustment for body mass index or dietary quality.
No association was observed between overall ultra-processed food consumption and risk of colorect♐al cancer among women. However, higher consumption of ꦡmeat/poultry/seafood-based ready-to-eat products and sugar-sweetened beverages among men – and ready-to-eat/heat mixed dishes among women – was associated with an increased risk of colorectal cancer.
In the , researchers analyzed two food classification systems in relation 🀅to mortalit🌼y – the Food Standards Agency Nutrient Profiling System (FSAm-NPS), used to derive the color-coded Nutri-Score front-of-pack label, and the NOVA scale, which evaluates the degree of food processing.
Their findings are based on 22,89ꦫ5 Italian adults (average age 55 years; 48% men) from the Moli-sani Study, investigating genetic an🌺d environmental risk factors for heart diseases and cancer.
Both the quantity and quality of food and beverages consumed were assessed and deaths were measured over a 14-year period (2005 to 2019), taking account of underlyin🎐g medical conditions.
Results show🦂ed that those in the highest quarter of the FSAm-NPS index (least healthy diet) compared with the lowest quarter (healthiest diet) had a 19% higher risk of death from any cause and a 32% higher risk of deat💞h from cardiovascular disease.
Risks were similar when the two extreme categories of ultra-processed food intake on the NOVA scale were compared (19% and 27% higher ꦓfor all-cause and cardiovascular mortality, respectively).
A significant proportion of the excess mortality risk associated with a poor diet was explained by a higher degree of💮 food processing. In contrast, ultra-processed food intake remained associated with mortality even after the poor nutritional quality of the d🏅iet was accounted for.
Both studies are observational so can’t establish cause♏, and limi𓃲tations include the possibility that some of the risks may be due to other unmeasured (confounding) factors.
Nevertheless, b🐭oth studies used reliable markers of dietary quality and took account of well known risk factors, and the findings back up other research linking highly processed food with poor health.
As such, both research teams say their findings support the public health importance of limiting certain types of ultra-pꦆrocessed foods for better health outcomes in the population. Results from the Italian study also reinforce the opportunity to reformulate dietary guidelines worldwide, by paying more attention to the degree of processing of foods along with nutrient-based recommendations.
In a linked , Brazilian researchers argue that nobody sensible wants foods꧂ that cause illness.
The overall positive solution, they say, includes making supplies of fresh and minimally processed foods available, attractive, and affordable. And sustaining national initiatives to promote and support freshly prepared meals made with fresh and minimally processed 🐲foods, using small amounts of processed culinary ingredients and processed f🍸oods.
“Enacted, this will promote public health. It will also n🉐ourish families, society, economies, and the environment,” they conclude.
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