Study finds relation between rising cancer rates and consumption of ultra processed foods

A recent search study on risks associated with ovarian cancer has found that overconsumption of ultra-processed food increases the likelihood of cancer. The study also suggested that overconsumption of such food increases the mortality rate from cancer. This study included 197,000 people from the United Kingdom with the male-to-female ratio being almost 50%. Even though the study focussed on studying the effect of ultra-processed food on all cancers, it showed that such food has a significant effect on a person's state of ovarian cancer. 

Ultra-processed or over-processed food has become a staple in the modern fast-paced world as it saves the time spent on preparing and cooking fresh foods. Processed food products such as soups, sauces, frozen pizza, and ready-to-eat meals, as well as hot dogs, sausages, french fries, sodas, store-bought cookies, cakes, candies, doughnuts, ice cream, etc. that are manufactured at factories with various mass production processes and are then packed with a shelf life ranging from few days to even a year. As these food products are meant to have a longer shelf life, their manufacturing processes are often coupled with many chemicals such as preservatives, color additives, and processed food ingredients which are far from their natural counterparts used during cooking. 

Dr. Kiara Chang, the first author of the study and a member of the Imperial College London’s School of Public Health, expressed similar thoughts. She said that ultra-processed food products often use industry-derived ingredients intending to extend their shelf life. She further added that our bodies do not react to these additives in processed food in the same way as it reacts to fresh and processed food that has minimal alterations. One should also consider that people who are fond of ultra-processed food products such as pizza, hot dogs, french fries, etc., also drink harmful beverages such as soda, which contain higher concentrations of sugar. Such people also avoid eating leafy vegetables and greens which are necessary for replenishing nutrients such as vitamins and minerals. Because of such life choices, these people have a higher likelihood of suffering from lifestyle-based diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and many others. However, this observation also challenges the claim that ultra-processed food results in higher chances of cancer. 

Duane Mellor, a registered dietitian, and member of the Aston Medical School in Birmingham said that based on the outcome of the study and already documented observations, the increased rates for cancer may not be specifically linked to the ultra-processed food products but to the lack of healthy living habits. For this study, the researchers analyzed the eating habits of 197,426 people from the UK. The data used in the study was obtained from the UK Biobank, which is one of the largest biomedical databases in the country. The study group of 197,426 people included people with a percentage of ultra-processed food ranging from 10% to as high as 40%. Upon comparing these results, the researchers concluded that a 10% increase in the amount of ultra-processed food in the diet increased the possibility of developing cancer by almost 2% and ovarian cancer by 19%. Although the results are alarming, the study needs further in-depth analysis to make solid claims.