The Dangers of Ultraprocessed Foods – Increased Risk of Cancer of the Upper Aerodigestive Tract
A recent study has shed light on the potential health risks associated with the consumption of ultraprocessed foods (UPF), revealing a link between higher intake of UPF and an increased risk of developing cancers of the upper aerodigestive tract. UPF are foods that result from repeated industrial processing and are typically high in fat, salt, sugar, and various additives, while lacking in essential micronutrients and fiber.
The study, led by researchers from the University of Bristol and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), analyzed data from 450,111 adults over a period of around 14 years. The results indicated that consuming 10% more UPF was associated with a 23% increased risk of head and neck cancer and a 24% increased risk of esophageal adenocarcinoma. The researchers also noted that obesity, often caused by the consumption of UPF, only partly explained the link between UPF consumption and the development of these cancers.
The presence of additives and contaminants in UPF, along with the tendency for these foods to contribute to excessive calorie intake and weight gain, may contribute to the heightened risk of cancer of the upper aerodigestive tract. Lead author of the study, Fernanda Morales-Berstein, highlighted the need for further research to explore other mechanisms, such as food additives and contaminants, that could explain the observed links.
Additionally, the study also revealed a potential association between UPF consumption and an increased risk of accidental deaths, although it is unlikely to be a causal relationship. Further long-term studies are needed to confirm these findings and determine the underlying factors responsible for this association.
In light of these findings, the study supports recommendations for cancer prevention that emphasize the importance of consuming a healthy diet rich in whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and legumes. While the frequency of UPF consumption remains unclear, nutritional guidelines suggest limiting UPF consumption to occasional indulgences, such as special events.
The research serves as a reminder of the potential health risks associated with the consumption of UPF and underscores the importance of making informed dietary choices for overall health and well-being.