Ultra-Processed Foods and Drinks Linked to Colorectal Cancer and Early Death

Two large studies that followed participants for decades have provided further evidence that the foods we eat — and don’t eat — can have significant health consequences. The research, published August 31 in the BMJfound that people who consumed higher amounts of “ultra-processed” foods were at greater risk of cardiovascular disease, bowel (colorectal) cancer, and early death.

What are ultra-processed foods? They include items like hot dogs, lunch meat, baked goods, salty snacks like chips, and sugary drinks, along with prepackaged ready-to-eat or microwave meals, which can contain more unhealthy fats and lots of sodium.

According to researchers, these findings add further support for policies that limit ultra-processed foods and promote unprocessed or minimally processed foods to improve public health worldwide.

Researchers Followed Participants for Over 2 Decades to Assess Cancer Risk

In the first study, examined the association between the consumption of ultra-processed foods and the risk of colorectal cancer in US adults using data from 46,341 men and 159,907 women who had participated in one of three large studies of US health professionals: the Nurses ‘ Health Study (1986–2014), the Nurses’ Health Study II (1991–2015), and the Health Professional Follow-Up Study (1986–2014).