Ultra-processed foods to cause higher risk of mouth, throat and oesophagus cancers not just obesity
Eating more ultra-processed foods (UPFs) may be associated with a higher risk of developing cancers of upper aerodigestive tract (including the mouth, throat and oesophagus), according to a new study led by researchers from the University of Bristol and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).
The authors of the study, which analysed diet and lifestyle data on 450,111 adults who were followed for approximately 14 years, say obesity associated with the consumption of UPFs may not be the only factor to blame. The study is published today [22 November] in the European Journal of Nutrition.
Since many UPFs have an unhealthy nutritional profile, the team sought to establish whether the association between UPF consumption and head and neck cancer and oesophageal adenocarcinoma in EPIC could be explained by an increase in body fat.
Results from the team’s analyses showed that eating 10% more UPFs is associated with a 23% higher risk of head and neck cancer and a 24% higher risk of oesophageal adenocarcinoma in EPIC. Increased body fat only explained a small proportion of the statistical association between UPF consumption and the risk of these upper-aerodigestive tract cancers.
The authors suggest that other mechanisms could explain the association. For example, additives including emulsifiers and artificial sweeteners which have been previously associated with disease risk, and contaminants from food packaging and the manufacturing process, may partly explain the link between UPF consumption and upper-aerodigestive tract cancer in this study.
Reference: Obesity may not be the only factor to link ultra-processed foods to higher risk of mouth, throat and oesophagus cancers; European Journal of Nutrition; DOI: 10.1007/s00394-023-03270-1