Scientists said common daily fare – including most breakfast cereals, breads, snacks and convenience meals – appears to be endangering the nation’s health.
Researchers said the latest study by Imperial College London is the most comprehensive yet, involving almost 200,000 people aged between 40 and 69 who were tracked for over a decade, against the risks of 34 types of cancer.
They said the findings were particularly concerning because of the “exceptionally high” intake of processed foods in the British diet – making up around half of daily calories. Already years we do know that processed foods, or simply foods that have undergone a change – been processed, in fact – so-called to make them more digestible, or safer, or to preserve them, are not healthy at all. Though still, lots of people prefer to eat white bread instead of whole grain brown bread.
This recent study showed that for every 10 per cent increase in ultra-processed food in a person’s diet, the chance of cancer rose by two per cent, while cancer death rates were six per cent higher.
Some of the sharpest rises were seen in breast and ovarian disease, where cancer mortality was respectively increased by 16 and 30 per cent.
Researcher Dr Kiara Chang said:
“The average person in the UK consumes more than half of their daily energy intake from ultra-processed foods.
“This is exceptionally high and concerning as ultra-processed foods are produced with industrially derived ingredients and often use food additives to adjust colour, flavour, consistency, texture, or extend shelf-life.”
Avoiding the most obvious examples of ultra-processed (UPF) isn’t all you need to do. Choosing supposedly healthy options such as higher-protein snacks, vegan meat substitutes and low-fat dairy products means you’re in danger of consuming food with lower nutrition.
When buying our food, we should pay more attention to the nutri-caloric value and check that there are no avoidable additives added to the product to be purchased. Much too often the factories like to present several claims on the packing which should get us the impression their product is ‘healthy’.
Researchers called for warning labels to be placed on processed foods, urging people to limit their intake, and said the sugar tax should be extended to cover more processed products.
The most commonly eaten ultra-processed foods in the UK are shop-bought mass-produced bread, ready meals, various breakfast cereals, reconstituted meat products such as ham, sweets, and shop-bought biscuits, buns and cakes, all, of which can be found too much sugar and also too much salt.
Previous studies have suggested a link between ultra-processed foods and heart disease, as well as obesity and type 2 diabetes.
In the new study, published in eClinicalMedicine, the team used UK Biobank data to examine the diets of 197,426 people. Their health was tracked over a decade and their risk of developing cancer or dying from it was also analysed.
The study found that higher consumption of ultra-processed foods was associated with a greater risk of developing cancer overall, and specifically ovarian and brain cancers. It was also associated with an increased risk of dying from cancer, most notably ovarian and breast cancers.
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