Processed food that accounts for up to 50 per cent of the total daily energy intake in several countries, contains high levels of sugar, fat and salt and lacks vitamins and fibre.
According to researchers, additional examination is required; however, the current study findings imply that increased consumption of ultra-processed foods might elevate the risk of cancer in the coming years.
"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", they said. A team at the Universite Sorbonne Paris Cite published the study in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) on Wednesday. The more processed foods you consumer, the greater your risk of cancer. Other risk factors for cancer like age, sex, educational level, family history, smoking status and physical activity levels were also taken into account.
After compiling the information, the researchers found that a 10 percent increase in consumption of ultra-processed foods correlated with a 12 percent increased risk of overall cancer; the increased risk of contracting breast cancer was 11 percent.
In addition, the study found no significant links between less processed foods (like canned vegetables, cheeses and freshly made unpackaged bread) and cancer risk; however, consuming fresh or minimally processed foods (rice, fruits, pulses, vegetables, meat, pasta, eggs, fish and milk) was linked to lower risks of overall cancer and breast cancer. For example, they can not dismiss some misclassification of foods or guarantee detection of every new cancer case. They also suggested that policies targeting product reformulation, taxation, and marketing restrictions on ultra-processed products and promotion of fresh or minimally processed foods may contribute to primary cancer prevention.
"Further studies are needed to better understand the relative effect of the various dimensions of processing (nutritional composition, food additives, contact materials, and neoformed contaminants) in these associations", they said.