Ultra-processed foods include baked goods and packaged snacks, soft drinks, sugary cereals, and ready-to-eat or reheat products, often containing high levels of added sugar, fat, and/or salt. but lacking in vitamins and fiber.
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Their findings are based on 46,341 men and 159,907 women from three large studies of US health professionals whose dietary intake was assessed every four years using detailed food frequency questionnaires.
Foods were grouped by degree of processing and colorectal cancer rates were measured over a period of 24 to 28 years, taking medical and lifestyle factors into account.
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The results show that compared to those in the bottom fifth of ultra-processed food consumption, men in the top fifth of consumption had a 29% higher risk of developing colorectal cancer, which remained significant after an additional adjustment of body mass index or diet quality.
No association was observed between overall consumption of ultra-processed foods and risk of colorectal cancer in women. However, higher consumption of ready-to-eat meat/poultry/seafood products and sugar-sweetened beverages among men—and mixed ready-to-eat/reheated meals among women—was associated with lower consumption. increased risk of colorectal cancer.
Their findings are based on 22,895 Italian adults (average age 55; 48% male) from the Moli-sani study, which studies genetic and environmental risk factors for heart disease and cancer.
The quantity and quality of food and drink consumed were assessed and deaths were measured over a 14-year period (2005 to 2019), taking into account underlying medical conditions.
The results showed that people in the top quarter of the FSAm-NPS index (least healthy diet) compared to the bottom quarter (healthiest diet) had a 19% higher risk of dying, regardless of diet. be the cause, and a 32% higher risk of death from cardiovascular causes. sickness.
The risks were similar when the two extreme categories of ultra-processed food consumption on the NOVA scale were compared (19% and 27% higher for all-cause and cardiovascular mortality, respectively).
A significant proportion of the excess mortality risk associated with poor diet was explained by a higher degree of food processing. In contrast, consumption of ultra-processed foods remained associated with mortality even after accounting for poor nutritional quality of the diet. Both studies are observational and therefore cannot establish causation, and limitations include the possibility that some of the risks from other unmeasured (confounding) factors.
Nonetheless, both studies used reliable markers of diet quality and took well-known risk factors into account, and the results support other research linking highly processed foods to poor health.
As such, both research teams say their findings support the public health importance of limiting certain types of ultra-processed foods for better population health outcomes. The results of the Italian study also strengthen the possibility of reformulating dietary guidelines around the world, paying more attention to the degree of food processing as well as nutrient-based recommendations.
In a linked editorial, Brazilian researchers say no sane person wants foods that cause disease.
The overall positive solution, they say, is to make supplies of fresh, minimally processed foods available, attractive and affordable. And support national initiatives to promote and support freshly prepared meals made from fresh, minimally processed foods, using small amounts of processed culinary ingredients and processed foods.
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