potato chips, junk food

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.

Learn More:

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.

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  1. Elizabeth
    Buffalo NY
    Reply

    Do we know if the subjects of the study who turned out to be higher risk ate the processed foods INSTEAD of healthy foods, or in some proportion to healthy foods that was too large? In other words, what if you ate a dinner plate that was 3/4 raw kale and 1/4 french fries. Are you at the same risk as someone who just ate a plate of french fries?

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