Cookies, candy, cans of pop and hot dogs may increase a person’s risk of bowel cancer, according to a new study.
Highly processed foods, which also include instant soups and noodles, sweet or salty packaged snacks and sugary drinks, can increase a person’s risk, the researchers said.
Academics in the US looked at data taken from three large long-term health studies involving more than 46,000 men and almost 160,000 women.
Participants were followed for 24 to 28 years.
During this period, approximately 3,216 cases of bowel cancer were identified.
The academics used data on cases and diets to determine bowel cancer risk.
Compared to those who ate the lowest amount of ultra-processed foods, men who ate the most were 29% more likely to develop bowel cancer, but the link was not found in women.
When the researchers looked at subgroups of highly processed foods, they found that women who consumed the highest amounts of ready meals had a 17% increased risk of bowel cancer compared to those in the group with the lowest consumption.
They also found that higher consumption of ready meals containing meat, poultry or seafood led to an increased risk for men.
Among men, they also linked higher consumption of sugary drinks to bowel cancer.
Those in the group who drank the most of these drinks were 21% more likely to develop bowel cancer compared to those who drank the least.
“High consumption of total ultra-processed foods in men and certain subgroups of ultra-processed foods in men and women was associated with an increased risk of colon cancer,” the authors wrote in The BMJ.
They said highly processed foods make up 57% of the total daily calories consumed by American adults, a number that has been steadily increasing over the past two decades.
Meanwhile, a separate study published in the same journal looked at food consumption in Italians.
The researchers looked at data on nearly 23,000 participants, 2,205 of whom died during the follow-up period.
They found that adults with the lowest quality of diet and the highest consumption of ultra-processed food were more likely to die during the follow-up period compared to those who had the best diet and ate the least amount of ultra-processed food.
In an accompanying article, Brazilian researchers said that most highly processed foods “are made, sold and promoted by companies, usually transnational, that frame them as convenient (ready-to-eat), affordable (low-cost ingredients) and super-palatable, and therefore it can displace other foods and also be overconsumed.’
They said highly processed foods include soft drinks. packaged snacks; commercial breads, cakes and cookies. confectionery; sugary breakfast cereals; Milk-based drinks with sugar and fruit. margarine; and pre-processed ready-to-eat or warming products such as burgers, pasta and pizzas.
“Most highly processed foods are energy-dense products, high in fat, sugar and salt, and low in fiber and micronutrients,” they added.
“What is to be done? Everyone needs food, but no one needs highly processed foods (with the exception of infant formula, in the rare cases where infants do not have access to breast milk).
“The analogy is smoke. The rational solution is formal public policies, including guidelines and publicity advising avoidance, and actions, including statutes, aimed at reducing the production and consumption of highly processed foods and limiting or preferably banning their promotion ».