What aspect of nutrition is most associated with mortality risk? A new study published in The British Medical Journal part of postulatepostulate that foods are not only characterized by their nutritional composition, but also by their degree of processing.
Nutri-Score and Nova: two related classification systems
As a reminder, ultra-processed foods are industrial formulations made by deconstructing whole foods into chemical constituents, modifying them and recombining them with additives. They belong to group 4 of the classification NovaNova which lists foods according to their degree of processing rather than their content of nutrientsnutrients.
Developed in France, the Nutri-Score indicates the nutritional quality of a food (for example based on the content of fat, salt, fiber, etc.) by a scale of five colorscolors. It should soon allow nutrition labeling frontalfrontal uniform at European level.
You should know that these two classification systems are linked, since more than 80% of foods identified as “unhealthy” by the Nutri-Score are also ultra-processed. If they have been separately reported as associated with poor outcomes in mattermatter of health in cohortscohorts populations worldwide, their joint impact on health had not been assessed in large cohorts.
The Italian researchers followed nearly 22,900 adults (average age 55; 48% men) for 14 years, taking into account both the nutritional composition of the diet and the degree of food processing.
As found in previous studies, Nutri-Score and Nova classification are both associated with mortality (cardiovascular and all-cause). But the statistical models used by the researchers also allowed them to see to what extent the excess risk associated with poor diet could be due to the ultra-processing of food, and vice versa.
Have direct access to information on the degree of food processing
” We found that some of the excess mortality associated with poor quality diets is explained by the fact that these diets are also ultra-processed.reports Marialaura Bonaccio, epidemiologist and first author of the study. Conversely, it is unlikely that the excess mortality risk associated with diets high in ultra-processed foods is attributable to the low nutritional quality of these foods. »
For the researchers, it is essential that consumers also know the degree of food processing, and not only the Nutri-Score. ” We need to focus on foods that the Nutri-Score classifies as nutritionally sound but are also highly processed “Explains Giuseppe Grosso, co-author of the study, in a press release. ” This is the case, for example, of certain drinks which, although they have a reduced content of sugarssugarstherefore adequate from a nutritional point of view (letter B in the Nutri-Score), are in fact highly processed. »
A comprehensive solution would be to make fresh, minimally processed foods available, attractive and affordable. And support initiatives to promote meals prepared with fresh, minimally processed foods, using small amounts of culinary ingredients and processed foods.
Ultra-processed foods: more reasons to reduce their consumption
Article of Claire WayClaire Waypublished on 09/09/2022
In a large study on the consumption of ultra-processed foods in men and women, researchers found that men who consumed a lot of them had a higher risk of developing colorectal cancer than others.
Present in almost all the shelves of our supermarkets, ultra-processed foods are often characterized by a low nutritional quality and by the presence offood additivesfood additives and compounds from contact packaging. If they make up 31% of the French plate, the situation is worse in the United States, where they represent 57% of the total caloriescalories daily consumed by adults.
A team led by researchers from Tufts and Harvard universities shows a link between ultra-processed foods and colorectal cancer in men. The results of their work have just been published in The British Medical Journal.
Why a new study?
Previous studies have reported that a high consumption of ultra-processed foods was associated with an increased risk of developing all types of cancers. The researchers felt that, among them, colorectal cancer could be particularly influenced by diet.
” Processed meats, most of which fall into the category of ultra-processed foods, are a risk factorrisk factor significant colorectal cancersaid in a statement from Tufts University Lu Wang, co-author of the study. Ultra-processed foods are also high in added sugars and low in fiber, which contributes to weight gain and fat loss.obesityobesity ; yet obesity is a proven risk factor for colorectal cancer. »
Three large American cohorts brought together more than 200,000 participants (including ¾ women) as part of a 25-year study. Every four years, each participant was required to enter their frequency of consumption of approximately 130 foods, divided into categories of ultra-processed foods. The participants themselves were then classified according to their frequency of consumption of this type of food.
Worst categories: meat or fish products and sugary drinks
Unsurprisingly, the heaviest consumers of ultra-processed foods were at the highest risk of developing colorectal cancer. However, if the overall link was established for men (29% additional risk compared to low consumers), women were only concerned by certain ultra-processed food subgroups.
Among men, the strongest link between ultra-processed foods and colorectal cancer came from ready-to-eat meat products (such as sausages, bacon or ham) or fishfish. The second category of offending foods included sugary drinks, such as sodas and fruit drinks.
If the results found are different for women, “ further research will need to determine if there is a true gender difference in the associations, or if other uncontrolled confounders in women have attenuatedattenuated the link write the authors. In the department of surprises, the latter found an inverse association between ultra-processed dairy foods such as certain yogurts and the risk of colorectal cancer in women. These foods could counteract the harmful effects of other types of ultra-processed foods in women, our diet resulting from a combination of nutrients.
How can this impact of ultra-transformation on our health be explained? ” The potential role of food additives in altering gut microbiota and promoting inflammation, as well as contaminants formed during food processing or migrating from food packaging may all promote cancer development summed up Fang Fang Zhang, cancer epidemiologist.