Processed food & cancer

It is quite incredible that we waited until February 2018 before seeing the headline: ”Ultra-processed foods ‘linked to cancer’” (Ref 1). A search of the academic database pubmed reveals that there are just 57 papers with processed food in the title, which are studies of human beings and not animals. Most are about specific ingredients (e.g. salt) or reviews of consumption of processed foods in different populations. Only four reviewed the association of processed food with a medical condition: One study found that greater consumption of minimally processed food was associated with less obesity in Brazilian adolescents (Ref 2). A Spanish study found that consumption of ultra-processed food was associated with greater risk of hypertension (Ref 3). Another Brazilian study found that ultra-processed food consumption was associated with adverse lipid profiles in children (Ref 4).  The fourth, again from Brazil, found an association between intake of ultra-processed food and obesity in Brazilian households (Ref 5).

The paper published on 14th February 2018 in the BMJ was a French epidemiological study (Ref 6). We are still waiting for the US or UK study announcing that processed food is associated with obesity, type 2 diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and dementia and so on. The Harvard epidemiologists are too busy attacking red meat or raving about vegetables and the UK authorities are too busy working with the processed food industry to ever critically examine its products.


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