A number of studies have highlighted the risks of processed high-sugar diets, showing excessive sugar consumption is at the very core of many of our current disease epidemics as it drives obesity and insulin resistance. Most recently, French researchers warn that ultra-processed foods raise your risk of cancer, and the more ultra-processed foods you eat, the greater your risk.
Nearly 105,000 study participants, a majority of whom were middle-aged women, were followed for an average of five years. On average, 18 percent of their diet was ultra-processed, and the results showed that each 10 percent increase in ultra-processed food raised the cancer rate by 12 percent, which worked out to nine additional cancer cases per 10,000 people per year.
The risk of breast cancer specifically went up by 11 percent for every 10 percent increase in ultra-processed food. Sugary drinks, fatty foods and sauces were most strongly associated with cancer in general, while sugary foods had the strongest correlation to breast cancer. According to the authors, “These results suggest that the rapidly increasing consumption of ultra-processed foods may drive an increasing burden of cancer in the next decades.”
Examples of ultra-processed foods include breakfast cereals, pizza, chicken nuggets, soda, chips and other salty/sweet/savory snacks, packaged baked goods, microwaveable frozen meals, instant soups and sauces and much more. More generally, ultra-processed foods can be defined as food products containing one or more of the following:
- Ingredients that are not traditionally used in cooking
- Unnaturally high amounts of sugar, salt, processed industrial oils and unhealthy fats
- Artificial flavors, colors, chemical sweeteners and other additives that imitate sensorial qualities of unprocessed or minimally processed foods (examples include additives that create textures and pleasing mouth-feel)
- Preservatives and chemicals that impart an unnaturally long shelf-life
- Genetically engineered (GE) ingredients, which in addition to carrying potential health risks also tend to be heavily contaminated with toxic herbicides such as glyphosate, 2,4-D and dicamba
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