Eating ham, crisps and ice cream could increase your risk of getting cancer
Eating ultra-processed foods such as ice cream, ham, crisps, mass-produced bread and breakfast cereal may increase the risk of cancer, experts have said.
A study funded by Cancer Research UK and the World Cancer Research Fund has explored the link between such a diet and the disease.
The Imperial College London team, which led the research, said the link could not be fully proven owing to the fact it is based on ‘observations’, in which people have to remember what they eat.
However, scientists said Brits eat far too many ultra-processed foods – often called UPFs – and called for front of pack warning labels.
These foods often contain chemicals, colourings, sweeteners and preservatives to extend shelf-life.
Dr Eszter Vamos, lead author on the study, said: ‘This study adds to the growing evidence that ultra-processed foods are likely to negatively impact our health including our risk for cancer.
‘Given the high levels of consumption in UK adults and children, this has important implications for future health outcomes.’
Lower income households are also ‘particularly vulnerable’ to this risk.
The most commonly eaten ultra-processed foods in the UK are shop-bought mass-produced bread, ready meals, various breakfast cereals, reconstituted meat products such as ham, sweets, and shop-bought biscuits, buns and cakes.
Researchers found a higher consumption of these foods was associated with a greater risk of developing cancer – and dying from it.
For every 10% increase in ultra-processed food in a person’s diet, there was a 2% increased risk of cancer overall, and a 19% increased risk for ovarian cancer specifically.
However Tom Sanders, professor emeritus of nutrition and dietetics at King’s College London, suggested it was difficult to draw conclusions from the study and said some of the claims were unsound.
He added: ‘The association with ultra-processed food and risk of ovarian cancer in this study is novel but given the relatively small number of cases (291) of ovarian cancer, the finding needs replication in other prospective cohorts before taking the claim that ultra-processed foods increase the risk of cancer seriously.’
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