processed food

Eating lots of ultra-processed food increases breast cancer risk: study

Ultra-processed foods, in addition to causing high blood pressure and obesity and diabetes and heart disease, are linked to a significantly increased risk of cancer. That’s according to a new study published by The British Medical Journal (BMJ).

Research indicates that ultra-processed foods (food that has undergone “multiple physical, biological, and/or chemical processes”) now make up between 25 and 50 percent of caloric intake in Europe, America, Canada, New Zealand and other developed countries.

Ultra-processed foods are high in fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt, and lower in fiber and vitamin density. Many contain known carcinogens, some of which are present in the foods’ packaging.

The BMJ study included more than 100,000 participants and found “associations between the proportion of ultra-processed foods in the diet and risks of overall, breast, prostate, and colorectal cancer.”

“More specifically,” the study says, “ultra-processed fats and sauces and sugary products and drinks were associated with an increased risk of overall cancer, and ultra-processed sugary products were associated with risk of breast cancer.”

The study is unique in that it is possibly the first to link ultra-processed foods to overall cancer risk in general and to breast cancer risk in particular. Here’s the main takeaway: “A 10% increase in the proportion of ultra-processed foods in the diet was associated with a significant increase of more than 10% in the risks of overall and breast cancer.”

One of the study’s authors, Mathilde Touvier, told CNN he was surprised by the definitive nature of the results:

“It was quite surprising, the strength of the results. They were really strongly associated, and we did many sensitive analysis and adjusted the findings for many co-factors, and still, the results here were quite concerning.”

Of course, anyone who was under the impression that processed foods are not detrimental to our health needs to have their head examined. Or their breasts.