Eating junk food tied to higher risk of numerous cancers

You probably already know that junk food, though delicious, is bad for you. It can have negative health effe...

Posted: Sep 18, 2018 10:19 PM
Updated: Sep 18, 2018 10:20 PM

You probably already know that junk food, though delicious, is bad for you. It can have negative health effects such as increasing your risk of heart disease, metabolic disease and even cancer. Now, researchers have used a new nutritional labeling system to tie a diet low in nutritional quality with increased risks of a number of types of cancers.

The Nutri-Score logo is based on the British Food Standards Agency's Nutrient Profiling System, which is calculated for each food or beverage using a 100-gram content measure for energy (calories), sugar, saturated fatty acids, sodium, fiber and proteins. The profiling system has been used in the UK to regulate food advertising to children since 2007.

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The new five-tier nutritional coding Nutri-Score system, which calculates food quality using the same method as the British standard, is unique; unlike the British system, Nutri-Score uses both colors (from dark green to dark orange) and grades (from A for the "highest nutritional quality" to E for the "lowest nutritional quality") so consumers can understand the quality of a food at a glance.

Simple though it may be, the Nutri-Score system has not been adopted by the European Union or any other nations, according to Mélanie Deschasaux and Mathilde Touvier, authors of a new study on the system and members of the Nutritional Epidemiology Research Team in the Epidemiology and Statistics Research Centre at Université Sorbonne Paris Cité.

Higher cancer risks

"The Nutri-Score has received the official support of health authorities in France and more recently in Belgium. However, its application cannot be mandatory because of the European Union labelling regulations," Deschasaux and Touvier explained in an email. However, 33 food manufacturers and companies, including Danone, Fleury Michon and McCain, have begun to voluntarily adopt the system.

This EU review and debate process is expected to come later in the year, with adoption and implementation of a standard nutritional labeling system for all EU countries "expected to follow," according to the authors: "Similar discussions are also ongoing in North and South America, Canada, and Australia."

The aim of the new study, published Tuesday in the journal PLOS Medicine, was to provide scientific evidence of the value of the British Food Standards Agency system as an underlying basis for the Nutri-Score system, Deschasaux and Touvier said.

The researchers examined the diets of 471,495 adults from 10 European countries through the Nutri-Score lens. They used the British Nutrient Profiling System to calculate a Nutri-Score for the usual diet -- the self-reported foods and beverages commonly eaten -- of each participant.

A total score reflecting a lower-nutritional-quality diet was associated with a higher risk of total cancer: Cancer rates among those with the highest junk food scores were 81.4 cases per 10,000 person years (separately, the rate for men was 115.9 and for women, 66.6), versus 69.5 cases per 10,000 person years (89.6 for men and 61.1 for women) among those with the lowest junk food scores. (Person years is an estimate of time for all the participants in the study that allows researchers to measure cancer risk regardless of how long a person remained in the study due to death or other factors.)

People who ate the most junk food showed a higher risk of colorectal, respiratory tract (lips, mouth, tongue, nose, throat, vocal cords and part of the esophagus and windpipe), and stomach cancers. Separately, men showed a higher risk of lung cancer, and women showed a higher risk of liver and postmenopausal breast cancers.

Because people who eat junk food might be overweight or do little exercise, and both of those qualities are linked to cancer, might the study's finding be a result of other factors and not diet alone?

"These analyses were adjusted for other individual characteristics that could 'confound' the nutrition-cancer association such as physical activity and BMI but also educational level, smoking status, alcohol use or family history of cancer," Deschasaux and Touvier wrote in an email to CNN. The adjusted result allowed the researchers to conclude that "a lower inherent nutritional quality of the food consumed was associated to a higher risk of developing a cancer."

"Overall, this adds support to the relevance of using [the British nutritional system] as an underlying nutrient profiling system for the simplified nutrition label Nutri-Score," Deschasaux and Touvier wrote.

'Protective' effects of a good diet

Gerardo G. Mackenzie, an assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition at the University of California, Davis, said one of the virtues of the new study is the large number of participants. Finding, once again in a study of many people, that eating junk food increases cancer risk substantiates all of the past research saying the same.

Mackenzie, who was not involved in the new research, recommended that consumers follow as many of the recommendations of the World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research as possible. One of the recommendations: Limit junk food.

"Each one of these recommendations has been shown to have a beneficial protective effect," Mackenzie said. "It is not a single one that will provide the benefit but several of them" as a whole.

Mackenzie added that more research is needed to precisely understand the ways in which high body mass, low physical activity and too much alcohol can counteract a good diet.

Deschasaux and Touvier concluded, "The association between nutrition and cancer (as well as other chronic diseases) is not new." Though there are other risk factors, nutrition ranks among the most important, because it "can be modified at the individual level and be targeted by public health policies."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 313166

Reported Deaths: 7228
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto21496257
Hinds20294414
Harrison17814309
Rankin13573278
Jackson13411246
Madison10066217
Lee9962173
Jones8364163
Forrest7649152
Lauderdale7181240
Lowndes6370145
Lamar621686
Lafayette6171118
Washington5323133
Bolivar4797132
Oktibbeha461498
Panola4561105
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Marshall4397103
Warren4380121
Pontotoc419572
Monroe4100133
Union409076
Neshoba4026176
Lincoln3950110
Hancock377786
Leflore3487125
Sunflower335790
Tate332484
Pike3301105
Scott315373
Alcorn311968
Yazoo310769
Itawamba299477
Copiah296465
Simpson294788
Coahoma294379
Tippah287768
Prentiss279560
Adams269582
Marion268880
Leake266273
Wayne262341
Grenada260386
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George246848
Newton246061
Winston226881
Tishomingo225967
Jasper220848
Attala214173
Chickasaw207157
Holmes188673
Clay184754
Stone182033
Tallahatchie178140
Clarke177879
Calhoun170132
Yalobusha163337
Smith162234
Walthall133845
Greene130333
Lawrence128323
Montgomery126742
Noxubee126734
Perry125938
Amite122842
Carroll121728
Webster114532
Jefferson Davis106932
Tunica104826
Claiborne102230
Benton99125
Humphreys96133
Kemper95428
Franklin83623
Quitman80216
Choctaw76118
Wilkinson66930
Jefferson65428
Sharkey50317
Issaquena1686
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 530325

Reported Deaths: 10966
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson763971520
Mobile40908804
Madison34717503
Tuscaloosa25730452
Montgomery24314588
Shelby23401249
Baldwin21107307
Lee15856171
Calhoun14488314
Morgan14282279
Etowah13819353
Marshall12210223
Houston10557280
Elmore10044205
Limestone9954150
Cullman9649193
St. Clair9644242
Lauderdale9419241
DeKalb8825185
Talladega8214175
Walker7223277
Autauga6918108
Jackson6804112
Blount6651137
Colbert6292134
Coffee5506119
Dale4828111
Russell440638
Chilton4279112
Franklin425582
Covington4118118
Tallapoosa4019152
Escambia393276
Chambers3559123
Dallas3547151
Clarke350861
Marion3113100
Pike310577
Lawrence299898
Winston274072
Bibb260464
Marengo249264
Geneva249077
Pickens234160
Barbour230757
Hale222677
Butler215969
Fayette212062
Henry188744
Cherokee184445
Randolph179941
Monroe177340
Washington167039
Macon158750
Clay156156
Crenshaw152057
Cleburne148741
Lamar141934
Lowndes138653
Wilcox127030
Bullock123041
Conecuh110129
Perry107526
Coosa107128
Sumter104332
Greene92334
Choctaw60424
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