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Ultra-processed foods like chicken nuggets could increase cancer risk, study says

It’s no secret that ultra-processed foods, such as chicken nuggets and meatballs, have been connected to health issues like high blood pressure and heart disease. Now, researchers are adding cancer to the list, according to a new report. 

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European researchers from universities and health institutions recently conducted a study, published in the British Medical Journal, to assess the association between cancer risk and ultra-processed foods.

Ultra-processed foods include packaged breads and snacks; confectionery and desserts; sodas and sweetened drinks; and meat balls, poultry and fish nuggets.

For their assessment, they examined the medical records and eating habits of about 100,000 adults. The data also kept track of the patients’ consumption of 3,300 different foods. 

After analyzing the information, they found that a 10 percent increase in consumption of ultra-processed foods was linked to a 12 percent rise in cancers.

"If confirmed in other populations and settings, these results suggest that the rapidly increasing consumption of ultra-processed foods may drive an increasing burden of cancer in the next decades," the authors wrote. 

Despite their results, scientists were not able to definitively say that ultra-processed foods cause cancer. That’s why they are hoping to continue their investigation to confirm their findings on a larger scale. 

In the meantime, they are encouraging policymakers to encourage companies to reduce the production of ultra-processed foods. 

“Policy actions targeting product reformulation, taxation, and marketing restrictions on ultra-processed products,” they wrote, “and promotion of fresh or minimally processed foods may contribute to primary cancer prevention.”

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