Mid­dle-aged women most at risk from fast food and fizzy drinks

Irish Daily Mail - - Front Page - By Ben Spencer

EAT­ING pro­cessed food sig­nif­i­cantly raises the risk of can­cer, ex­perts warned last night.

They said the dis­ease was claim­ing more lives be­cause of the pop­u­lar­ity of ready-made meals, sug­ary ce­re­als and fizzy drinks.

The prod­ucts put mid­dle-aged women in par­tic­u­lar dan­ger from breast can­cer, ac­cord­ing to a study led by ex­perts at the Sor­bonne Univer­sity in Paris.

‘Ul­tra-pro­cessed’ food – any prod­uct in­volv­ing an in­dus­trial pro­ce­dure – now makes up al­most half of our diet.

Packed with chem­i­cal ad­di­tives, the foods bear lit­tle re­sem­blance to home­cooked meals. And the more of them an in­di­vid­ual eats, the higher their risk of can­cer of any type.

Ex­perts be­lieve this is be­cause pro­cessed foods, which in­clude pack­aged meat, pies, sweets and crisps, are higher in fat, salt

and sugar. They also have less of the vi­ta­mins and fi­bre that ward off dis­ease, ac­cord­ing to the study pub­lished in the Bri­tish Med­i­cal Jour­nal.

The pro­ce­dures used to make the food – and the chem­i­cals and ad­di­tives used to boost their flavours and shelf life – are also thought to raise the risk. The re­searchers said it was the first study to high­light a link be­tween ul­tra­pro­cessed food and an in­creased over­all can­cer risk.

The re­search was based on food di­aries com­pleted by 105,000 adults. It ranked the par­tic­i­pants by how much ul­tra-pro­cessed food they ate over two 24-hour pe­ri­ods. For those in the top quar­ter of the sam­ple, 32% of their diet came from ul­tra-pro­cessed food.

They were 23% more likely to de­velop can­cer of any type over the next five years than those in the bot­tom quar­ter, whose diet was only 8% ul­tra-pro­cessed food. Women in the top quar­ter were 38% more likely to de­velop post­menopausal breast can­cer. The chance of younger women get­ting pre­menopausal breast can­cer in­creased 27%, and bowel can­cer risk went up 23%.

There was no im­pact on prostate can­cer.

Led by ex­perts at the Sor­bonne Univer­sity in Paris, the re­searchers said Irish peo­ple were among those at higher risk be­cause they would con­sume more ul­tra­pro­cessed food than the French adults in the study.

A study of 19 Euro­pean coun­tries pub­lished ear­lier this month found that Ire­land came third of those at risk, with 45.9% of food sold here be­ing ul­tra-pro­cessed. It found that Bri­tain was worst off with 50.7% and Ger­many came sec­ond with 46.2%. It was just 14.2% in France.

The team as­sessed 3,300 dif­fer­ent food prod­ucts as part of the study and classed each by the level of pro­cess­ing they had been sub­jected to. Sug­ary prod­ucts were the most com­mon form of ul­tra-pro­cessed food, mak­ing up 26% of foods in this cat­e­gory. Drinks made up 20% and break­fast ce­real 16%.

The re­searchers wrote: ‘To our knowl­edge, this study is the first to in­ves­ti­gate and high­light an in­crease in the risk of over­all – and specif­i­cally breast – can­cer as­so­ci­ated with ul­tra-pro­cessed food in­take. If con­firmed in other pop­u­la­tions and set­tings, these re­sults sug­gest that the rapidly in­creas­ing con­sump­tion of ul­tra-pro­cessed foods may drive an in­creas­ing bur­den of can­cer in the next decades.’

They found no can­cer link to less pro­cessed foods – such as canned veg­eta­bles, cheeses and freshly made un­pack­aged bread. And peo­ple who mainly ate fresh and un­pro­cessed foods – such as fruit, veg­eta­bles, pulses, meat and fish – had a lower can­cer risk. Study leader Dr Mathilde Tourier said the poor nu­tri­tional value of ul­tra-pro­cessed food was prob­a­bly the most im­por­tant fac­tor in can­cer risk.

But she added: ‘They all have food ad­di­tives, they all have com­pounds formed dur­ing the pro­cess­ing and heat­ing of the prod­ucts, and they have com­pounds that could come from the pack­ag­ing it­self. Most of the com­pounds are prob­a­bly safe, but some of these sub­stances are of con­cern re­gard­ing can­cer risk.’

Ire­land third high­est risk

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