Another study links ultra-processed foods to cancer: Here’s what to eat

New research suggests that eating high amounts of ultra-processed foods (UPF) may increase the risk of oral and throat cancers.

For the study, conducted by the University of Bristol in the UK and the International Agency for Research on Cancer, researchers surveyed the eating habits and lifestyles of nearly half a million people over the past decade. Research shows that people who eat more UPF (such as potato chips, candy, breakfast cereals, chicken nuggets, hot dogs and carbonated drinks) are at higher risk of developing head, neck and esophageal cancer.

The risk of head and neck cancer was 23% higher, while the risk of esophageal cancer was estimated to be 24% higher.

The authors suggest that this is not only due to increased body fat mass, but may also be due to other factors such as the additive content in UPF. Still, the researchers noted that the study may have potential biases and further research is needed.

“UPFs are clearly associated with a number of adverse health outcomes, but whether they actually cause these outcomes, or whether underlying factors such as general health-related behaviors and socioeconomic status contribute to the association, remains unclear, as has the association with accidental death That’s cause for concern,” said Professor George David Smith, one of the study’s co-authors.


Processed foods and cancer risks

This study is not the first to link processed foods to an increased risk of cancer. Another study from Imperial’s School of Public Health in February 2023 showed that UPF is linked to a higher risk of cancer overall, including breast and ovarian cancer.

“Our bodies may respond differently to these ultra-processed ingredients and additives than they do to fresh, nutritious, minimally processed foods,” said study lead author Dr. Kiara Chang.

“Yet ultra-processed foods are ubiquitous and highly marketed with low prices and attractive packaging to promote consumption,” she continued. “This shows that our food environment needs urgent reform to protect people from ultra-processed foods.”

Research has also linked processed meats to an increased risk of colorectal and prostate cancer. The World Health Organization even classifies products like bacon, sausage, and ham as Group 1 carcinogens.

The proven benefits of plant-based whole foods

Compared to UPF, plant-based whole foods such as legumes, vegetables, fruits, seeds, legumes, tofu and grains may reduce the risk of cancer as well as heart disease, Alzheimer’s and other diseases. Type 2 diabetes.

“Whole foods provide the full benefits of fiber and protein as well as vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants,” Jacqueline Wyman, MS, RDN, CDN, explained to VegNews.

“When choosing a plant-based diet, you will undoubtedly get the recommended 25-38 grams of fiber per day because all plant foods contain fiber,” she continues. “Fiber is necessary to form good, easy-to-pass bowel movements and helps remove excess cholesterol and metabolites of estrogen and other toxins from the body.”


She said UPF appears to be doing more harm than good, as the above-mentioned studies indicate. “In a 2020 systematic review, 37 of 43 studies linked UPF consumption to at least one negative health outcome,” she explains. “UPF is associated with overweight, obesity, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, overall cancer, breast cancer, IBS, depression, and mortality.”

According to the USDA, if UPFs were mostly vegan (like canned baked beans), they might not be as harmful to our health. This may be because they are generally lower in saturated fat and added sugar, but rich in micronutrients and macronutrients.

Substituting plant-based meat for processed animal meat may also reduce the risk of heart disease.

But it’s worth noting that when it comes to health, plant-based, minimally processed, whole foods may always be at the top of the list. This is not only down to fiber, but also because plants are rich in antioxidants, which may help neutralize harmful free radicals in the body (free radical damage can contribute to the development of disease).

“Disease prevention and healthy living start with a simple change of ingredients at home,” Dima Salhoobi, RD, CDN, MS, owner of Fresh Nutrition Counseling, told VegNews. “The simple decisions we make every day in our lives have a lot to do with what’s going on in our bodies. It is related to substances that may be harmful to our health or may be beneficial to our health.”

For more information about vegan food and health, read:

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