Men who consume high amounts of ultra-processed foods face a higher risk of developing colon cancer than those who don’t, according to a Tufts University study released Wednesday.
The study analyzed data from more than 200,000 patients over a 25-year period and found that men who ate more of these types of foods were 29% more likely to develop colorectal cancer.
The research, the results of which were published in the British Medical Journal, did not find this same correlation for women.
Ultra-processed foods are made from substances such as added fat, starches or sugars and contain additives such as artificial colors or flavors. Processed meats, such as hot dogs or bacon, as well as frozen foods, soda, and fast food, fall into this category.
However, the researchers found that eating foods like yogurt can “counteract the damaging effect” of other types of ultra-processed foods for women, said Fang Zhang, an epidemiologist at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, where the study was conducted.
More and more Americans are including ultra-processed foods in their diets: In 2017 and 2018, they accounted for 57% of calories consumed by adults in the country, up from 54% in 2001 and 2002, according to another study published last year.
“Much of the reliance on these types of foods is due to factors such as food access and convenience” for consumers, Zhang explained. Products that have been altered have a longer shelf life than those that have not.
“We must make consumers aware of the risks associated with consuming unhealthy foods in large quantities and make healthier options easier to choose,” he added.
Access to higher quality organic food in the US is conditional on where people live. Nineteen million Americans, or 6.2% of the population, live in what are known as “food deserts,” areas where most residents are more than two miles from a supermarket.
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