Ultra-processed foods linked to increased risk of cancer and early death, studies find
Consuming a lot of ultra-processed foods can lead to a number of adverse health effects as well as early death, according to two large-scale studies published in BMJ medical journal Wednesday.
Driving the news: The studies, conducted in the U.S. and Italy, concluded that increased ultra-processed food consumption is associated with higher risk of cardiovascular diseases and overall mortality, along with higher colorectal cancer deaths in men.
- It also increases the risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases, depression, and overall mortality.
Why it matters: Adults with the lowest quality diet, and the highest ultra-processed food consumption, were at the highest risk for death from any cause.
What they're saying: "Beyond poor nutrition profiles, ultra-processed foods commonly contain food additives such as dietary emulsifiers and artificial sweeteners, some types of which have been suggested to increase the pro-inflammatory potential of the gut microbiome, promoting colon carcinogenesis," investigators said.
But, but, but: Reformulating ultra-processed foods by, for example, replacing sugar with artificial sweeteners, is not a solution and can be especially troublesome if promoted as healthy products, researchers said.
- "They would remain partly, mainly, or solely formulations of chemicals."
Be smart: The rational solution is public policies and actions — including publicity advising avoidance — designed to reduce production and consumption of ultra-processed foods and to restrict or prohibit their promotion, researchers said.
For the record: Colorectal cancer is most common in adults 65 to 74 years old, but it's also among the fastest-growing cancers in people younger than 50.