Eating a lot of ultraprocessed foods significantly increases men’s risk of colorectal cancer and can lead to heart disease and early death in both men and women, according to two new, large-scale studies of people in the United States and Italy published Wednesday in British medical journal The BMJ.
Ultraprocessed foods include prepackaged soups, sauces, frozen pizza, ready-to-eat meals and pleasure foods such as hot dogs, sausages, french fries, sodas, store-bought cookies, cakes, candies, doughnuts, ice cream and many more.
“Literally hundreds of studies link ultra-processed foods to obesity, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and overall mortality,” said Marion Nestle, the Paulette Goddard professor emerita of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University and author of numerous books on food politics and marketing.
“These two studies continue the consistency: Ultraprocessed foods are unambiguously associated with an increased risk for chronic disease,” said Nestle, who was not involved in either study.
The U.S.-based study examined the diets of over 200,000 men and women for up to 28 years and found a link between ultraprocessed foods and colorectal cancer — the third most diagnosed cancer in the U.S. — in men, but not women.
Processed and ultraprocessed meats, such as ham, bacon, salami, hotdogs, beef jerky and corned beef, have long been associated with a higher risk of bowel cancer in both men and women, according to the World Health Organization, American Cancer Society and the American Institute for Cancer Research.