- Eating ‘ultra processed’ foods raises risk of bowel cancer by 29% among men – study.
- Bowel cancer accounts for 11% of all new cases of cancer and is the fourth most common in the UK.
- Ultra-processed foods are high in added sugars and low in fiber, which contribute to weight gain and obesity.
- The use of animal products was found to have the strongest connection between the disease and ultra-processed foods in the male participants.
- A high intake of sugary drinks, such as fizzy drinks and fruit-based drinks was also linked to a high risk of colon cancer among the men.
Although food and health have an intimate relationship in maintaining balance in the human body, new research has revealed that what you eat can have far-reaching, even fatal, consequences.
A study into the link between a processed diet and bowel cancer was published in the British Medical Journal.
The disease, also known as colorectal cancer, accounts for 11% of all new cases of cancer and is the fourth most common in the UK.
With 16,800 cancer-related deaths in the UK every year, it is the second most common cause of cancer death.
Researchers from the United States, Canada, and Brazil concluded that men who consumed more ultra-processed foods had a 29% higher risk of developing bowel cancer than men who consumed significantly less of these foods.
Interestingly, the similarity connection, however, was not found in women.
Science Daily quoted Lu Wang, the study’s lead author, as saying to the agency: “We initially thought that colorectal cancer could be the cancer most affected by food compared to other cancer types.”
Processed meats, most of which fall into the category of ultra-processed foods, are a strong risk factor for colorectal cancer, added Wang.
“Ultra-processed foods are also high in added sugars and low in fiber, which contribute to weight gain and obesity, and obesity is an established risk factor for colorectal cancer.”
Over the course of 25 years, the dietary responses of over 200,000 participants—159,907 women and 46,341 men—were analyzed as part of the research.
Every four years, each person answered a food questionnaire that inquired about their consumption of 130 different foods.
Bowel cancer was diagnosed in 1,294 men and 1,922 women during this time.
The use of animal products was found to have the strongest connection between the disease and ultra-processed foods in the male participants.
Symptoms of bowel cancer include the secretion of an odd substance from the anus.
However, not all processed meals were discovered to be as dangerous. A high intake of sugary drinks, such as fizzy drinks and fruit-based drinks, was also linked to a high risk of colon cancer among the men.
Co-senior author Fang Fang Zhang added, “We found an inverse association between ultra-processed dairy foods like yoghurt and colorectal cancer risk among women.”
It was thought this could be one reason why women were less affected.
“Foods like yoghurt can potentially counteract the harmful impacts of other types of ultra-processed foods on women,” Mr. Zhang said.
Overall, the researchers stressed the importance of limiting processed food intake.
Mr. Zhang said: “Much of the dependence on these foods can come down to factors like food access and convenience.”
Foods can be chemically processed to increase their shelf life, although many processed foods are less healthy than their unprocessed alternatives.
“We need to make consumers aware of the risks associated with consuming unhealthy foods in quantity and make the healthier options easier to choose instead.”