Your cereal could be killing you.
A new study out of England published Tuesday links ultra-processed foods with heightened risk for developing and dying from cancer.
Researchers at London’s Imperial School of Public Health collected diet data for nearly 200,000 middle-aged adults and monitored their health over roughly 10 years, specifically their risk of developing 34 types of cancer. The medical researchers found that every 10 percentage point increase in the consumption of “ultra-processed” food — defined as items heavily processed during production such as ready-to-eat meals and a majority of breakfast cereals — was associated with a 2 percent rise in cancer incidence and a 6 percent increase in overall cancer mortality. Specifically, a 10-point increase in processed food consumption was associated with a 19 percent increase in ovarian cancer and a whopping 30 percent rise in ovarian cancer deaths.
“This study adds to the growing evidence that ultra-processed foods are likely to negatively impact our health including our risk for cancer,” lead author Dr. Eszter Vamos said in a press release. “Although our study cannot prove causation, other available evidence shows that reducing ultra-processed foods in our diet could provide important health benefits.”
While the study examined U.K. residents, the U.S. and Britain share similar levels of overweight people hooked on processed diets. Processed foods are generally cheaper and more convenient than healthier alternatives and come with high sugar content that makes the packaged products addictive. Prior research from the same team shows that the consumption of processed foods is higher in the U.K. than all the rest of Europe, and it linked processed products with obesity and type 2 diabetes.
“The average person in the UK consumes more than half of their daily energy intake from ultra-processed foods,” said Dr. Kiara Chang, another author of the study. “This is exceptionally high and concerning as ultra-processed foods are produced with industrially derived ingredients and often use food additives to adjust color, flavor, consistency, texture, or extend shelf life.”
In the U.S., the obesity epidemic has swollen to such epic proportions that in January, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released updated guidelines for tackling severe cases in children, including an aggressive regimen of pharmaceuticals and surgeries.
Rather than recalibrate the childhood experience with diet and exercise, the AAP recommends prescribing obese children ages 12 and up one of three medications to bring down their weight. Children 13 and older are recommended to be screened for bariatric surgery, a procedure that was previously considered to be of last resort for even the most severe adult cases. The academy’s primary funders happen to be pharmaceutical companies raking in the profits of turning children into lifelong medical patients instead of healthy, active young people.
Another study out this week, published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s by medical scientists at McGill University in Montreal, reportedly found a link between obesity and Alzheimer’s disease.