Home / News / India /  Fizzy drinks, sugary cereals, ready-to-eat meals linked to cancer, heart issues: What new study says

Fizzy drinks, sugary cereals, ready-to-eat meals linked to cancer, heart issues: What new study says

The findings add further evidence in support of policies that limit ultra-processed foods and instead promote eating unprocessed or minimally-processed foods to improve public health worldwide.Premium
The findings add further evidence in support of policies that limit ultra-processed foods and instead promote eating unprocessed or minimally-processed foods to improve public health worldwide.

  • The latest findings add further evidence in support of policies that limit ultra-processed foods and instead promote eating unprocessed or minimally-processed foods to improve public health worldwide

A new study have driven home the point that high intake of ultra-processed foods is associated with an elevated risk of cardiovascular disease, bowel (colorectal) cancer and death. The study, published in the journal The BMJ, informed that the latest findings add further evidence in support of policies that limit ultra-processed foods and instead promote eating unprocessed or minimally-processed foods to improve public health worldwide. Additionally, they reinforce the opportunity to reformulate dietary guidelines worldwide by paying more attention to the degree of processing of foods along with nutrient-based recommendations, news agency ANI report said.

Notably, the ultra-processed foods include packaged baked goods and snacks, fizzy drinks, sugary cereals, and ready-to-eat or heat products, often containing high levels of added sugar, fat, and/or salt, but lacking in vitamins and fibre.

How diet rich in ultra-processed foods impacts health:

It is worth noting that previous studies have linked ultra-processed foods to higher risks of obesity, high blood pressure, cholesterol, and some cancers, but few studies have assessed the association between ultra-processed food intake and colorectal cancer risk, and findings are mixed due to limitations in study design and sample sizes.

In the first study, researchers examined the association between the consumption of ultra-processed foods and the risk of colorectal cancer in US adults. 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, the report said.

Foods were grouped by degree of processing and rates of colorectal cancer were measured over a period of 24-28 years, taking into account of medical and lifestyle factors.

Results show that compared with those in the lowest fifth of ultra-processed food consumption, men in the highest fifth of consumption had a 29 per cent higher risk of developing colorectal cancer, which remained significant after further adjustment for body mass index or dietary quality.

No association was observed between overall ultra-processed food consumption and the risk of colorectal cancer among women. However, higher consumption of meat/poultry/seafood-based ready-to-eat products and sugar-sweetened beverages among men - and ready-to-eat/heat mixed dishes among women - was associated with an increased risk of colorectal cancer.

In the second study, researchers analysed two food classification systems in relation to mortality - the Food Standards Agency Nutrient Profiling System (FSAm-NPS), used to derive the colour-coded Nutri-Score front-of-pack label, and the NOVA scale, which evaluates the degree of food processing.

Their findings are based on 22,895 Italian adults (average age 55 years; 48% men) from the Moli-sani Study, investigating genetic and environmental risk factors for heart diseases and cancer.

Both the quantity and quality of food and beverages consumed were assessed and deaths were measured over a 14-year period (2005 to 2019), taking into account of underlying medical conditions.

Results showed that those in the highest quarter of the FSAm-NPS index (least healthy diet) compared with the lowest quarter (healthiest diet) had a 19 per cent higher risk of death from any cause and a 32% higher risk of death from cardiovascular disease.

A significant proportion of the excess mortality risk associated with a poor diet was explained by a higher degree of food processing. In contrast, ultra-processed food intake remained associated with mortality even after the poor nutritional quality of the diet was accounted for.Both studies are observational so can't establish cause, and limitations include the possibility that some of the risks may be due to other unmeasured (confounding) factors.

Nevertheless, both studies used reliable markers of dietary quality and took account of well-known risk factors, and the findings back up other research linking highly processed food with poor health.

Here's what to do instead: 

As per the study, the overall positive solution includes making supplies of fresh and minimally processed foods available, attractive, and affordable. And sustaining national initiatives to promote and support freshly prepared meals made with fresh and minimally processed foods, using small amounts of processed culinary ingredients and processed foods. "Enacted, this will promote public health. It will also nourish families, society, economies, and the environment," they conclude. 

(With inputs from ANI)

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