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ANALYSIS

Ten per cent rise in ultra-processed foods increases cancer risk by 12%
Tuesday, 20 February, 2018, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Paris
A 10 per cent increase in the proportion of ultra-processed food in diets could lead to a 12 per cent increase in overall cancer risk and an 11 per cent increase in breast cancer risk. This was reported in a study published in British Medical Journal recently. The study added that the risk of breast cancer was heightened among women who were in the post-menopausal stage.

This was the first study that investigated the link between ultra-processed food and cancer. It concentrated on the overall incidents of cancer occurrences and also on the occurrence of breast cancer. The research, which was conducted in France, was led by Bernard Srour, pharmacist and PhD candidate in epidemiology, Paris University’s nutritional epidemiology research team in Bobigny, France.

Ultra-processed food has a higher content of total fat, saturated fat, added sugar and salt, along with a lower fibre and vitamin density. The presence of an excess amount of salt and sugar leads to non-communicable diseases, including cancer.

The study stated that certain components like preservatives and additives added for the purpose of increasing shelf life and flavour of the product were the trigger for cancer in humans. And certain carcinogenic components could be formed as a result of processing itself. For example, acrylamide is one of the carcinogenic components formed during a specific reaction called Maillard reaction (a browning reaction that takes place between sugars and amino acids). This reaction takes place at a higher temperature and it is used to enhance the flavour and aroma of products like fried potatoes, biscuits, bread and coffee.

It was conducted through NutriNet-Santé, a Web-based survey system, which documents 24-hour dietary records of individuals. NOVA, the food classification that categorises foods according to the extent and purpose of food processing, rather than in terms of nutrients, was used to categorise the data collected, according to a report published in Down To Earth.

The study concluded that further research was needed to have a better understanding about the effects of various dimensions involved with food processing. It also stated that such studies needed to be conducted in other countries as well.
 
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