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Snack Attack: Ultra Processed Foods Cause More Colorectal Cancer In Men

American men who consume higher rates of ultra-processed foods are nearly 1/3 more likely to develop colorectal cancer than men who do not, according to a new study.

Colorectal cancer is the third-most diagnosed cancer in the U.S., and the second leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide. Authors of the study wrote that “ultra-processed foods (that is, industrial ready-to-eat or ready-to-heat formulations made of little or no whole foods) now contribute 57 percent of total daily calories consumed by American adults, which has been continuously increasing in the past two decades.”

247Health readers don’t need to be reminded that processed foods cause coronary heart diseases, obesity, hypertension and metabolic syndrome, amongst many other conditions. Everyone knows these foods are a plate of pain and death, but many companies continue to produce them, and even more continue to eat them.

A total of 46,341 men and 159,907 women were included in the analyses. Between 24 and 28 years of follow-up, 1,294 cases of colorectal cancer among men were recorded and 1,922 among women. Compared with men who ate the lowest proportion of ultra-processed food, those in the highest-consumption group had a 29 percent higher chance of developing the cancer.

Processed foods often come wrapped in cancer-causing packaging, as well

“Processed meats, most of which fall into the category of ultra-processed foods, are a strong risk factor for colorectal cancer,” explained lead study author Lu Wang of Tufts University in a statement. “Ultra-processed foods are also high in added sugars and low in fiber, which contribute to weight gain and obesity, and obesity is an established risk factor for colorectal cancer.”

Besides processed meats and carbohydrate-based snacks, sodas also posed serious threats to men’s health. Authors point to food additives as a potential reason for the findings, as the additives have been shown to alter gut microbiota and promote inflammation. Contaminants from packaging (looking at you, plastic!) may also account for the link, they think.

“Chemically processing foods can aid in extending shelf life, but many processed foods are less healthy than unprocessed alternatives,” Zhang added. 

“We need to make consumers aware of the risks associated with consuming unhealthy foods in quantity and make the healthier options easier to choose instead.”

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