Researchers have become increasingly concerned about links between diet and cancer. Could junk food create an elevated risk?
The NutriNet-Santé Study of Junk Food:
That seems to be the conclusion from a study published in The BMJ (Fiolet et al, BMJ, Feb. 14, 2018). The research, which followed the dietary habits and health of 104,980 French adults from 2009 to 2017 establishes a link between ultra-processed foods and an elevated risk of cancer. For every 10 percent increase in ultra-processed food in the diet, the investigators saw a 12 percent increase risk of overall cancer. Breast cancer risk rose by 11 percent.
What Counts as Junk Food?
The researchers asked the study participants about their consumption of ultra-processed foods such as sugar-sweetened carbonated beverages, packaged sweet or savory snacks, mass-produced packaged breads and buns, sugary cereals, instant noodles and soups, fish and chicken nuggets and shelf-stable ready meals. These food products make up one-fourth to one-half of calories consumed in many industrialized countries. They often contain hydrogenated oils, modified starches and protein isolates.
What Should You Be Eating?
The researchers contrasted these super-processed foods (aka junk food) with minimally-processed foods: fruits, vegetables, beans, pasta, rice, eggs, milk, fish or meat prepared by freezing, chilling, cooking or fermenting. The authors of the study point out that this research question is of great interest to the NutriNet-Santé volunteers.
If you would like guidance on how to cook delicious meals that are not super-processed, you may be interested in our book Recipes & Remedies From The People’s Pharmacy. It is currently on sale, and offers delicious recipes from many of the nutrition researchers we have interviewed over the years.