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Junk food increases risk of cancer in women

 
  • Women of all body types are increasing their risk of cancer by eating junk food
  • Research by the University of Arizona links energy dense foods to cancer risk
  • It is believed that high energy dense processed foods can disturb metabolism
  • Women who eat a diet like this are 10 per cent more likely to develop cancer

Colin Fernandez Science Correspondent For The Daily Mail

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Women who eat junk food such as burgers or pizza are increasing their risk of cancer even if they’re not overweight, new research has warned.

Eating so-called ‘energy dense foods’ – such as chicken nuggets, burgers and pizza – may make cancer more likely, regardless of a woman’s weight.

The findings mean that even if you are of a healthy weight, consuming unhealthy foods will still increase your risk of contracting cancer.

Several kinds of cancer are more likely in obese people, including oesophagus, kidney, bowel, breast, pancreas and womb cancer.

University of Arizona findings mean that even if you are of a healthy weight, consuming unhealthy foods like takeaway hamburgers, pictured, will still increase your risk of contracting cancer

University of Arizona findings mean that even if you are of a healthy weight, consuming unhealthy foods like takeaway hamburgers, pictured, will still increase your risk of contracting cancer

University of Arizona findings mean that even if you are of a healthy weight, consuming unhealthy foods like takeaway hamburgers, pictured, will still increase your risk of contracting cancer

However, the latest findings found a link between food high in dietary energy density and cancers linked to obesity – in women of normal weight.

This suggests that it is the dietary energy density (DED) of the food that is contributing to the cancer risk.

While exactly how high energy density food increase cancer risk is not known, it is thought to disturb the working of the body’s metabolism.

Researchers looked at DED in the diets of post-menopausal women and discovered that consuming high DED foods was tied to a 10 per cent increase in obesity-related cancer among normal weight women.

Women who eat a diet in higher energy dense foods, like the takeaway pizza pictured, are 10 per cent more likely to develop an obesity-related cancer, independent of body mass index

Women who eat a diet in higher energy dense foods, like the takeaway pizza pictured, are 10 per cent more likely to develop an obesity-related cancer, independent of body mass index

Women who eat a diet in higher energy dense foods, like the takeaway pizza pictured, are 10 per cent more likely to develop an obesity-related cancer, independent of body mass index

DED is a measure of food quality and the relationship of calories to nutrients. The more calories per gram of weight a food has, the higher its DED.

Whole foods – such as vegetables, fruits, lean protein, and beans – are considered low-DED foods because they provide a lot of nutrients using very few calories.

But processed foods, such as hamburgers and pizza, are considered high-DED foods because people need a larger amount to get their necessary nutrients.

To gain a better understanding of how energy density relates to cancer risk, American researchers looked at data from 90,000 postmenopausal women.

This included their diet and any diagnosis of cancer.

They found that women who ate a diet higher in DED were 10 per cent more likely to develop an obesity-related cancer, independent of body mass index (BMI).

In fact, the study revealed that the increased risk appeared limited to women who were of a normal weight at enrolment in the programme.

Study lead investigator Professor Cynthia Thomson, of the University of Arizona, said: ‘The demonstrated effect in normal-weight women in relation to risk for obesity-related cancers is novel and contrary to our hypothesis.

‘This finding suggests that weight management alone may not protect against obesity-related cancers should women favour a diet pattern indicative of high energy density.’

Although restricting energy dense foods may play a role in weight management, the researchers found that weight gain was not solely responsible for the rise in cancer risk among normal weight women in the study.

The researchers said that while further study is needed to understand how DED may play a role in cancer risk for other groups such as young people and men, the information may help persuade postmenopausal women to choose low DED foods – even if they are already at a healthy BMI.

Prof Thomson added: ‘Among normal-weight women, higher DED may be a contributing factor for obesity-related cancers.

‘Importantly, DED is a modifiable risk factor. Nutrition interventions targeting energy density as well as other diet-related cancer preventive approaches are warranted to reduce cancer burden among postmenopausal women.’

The research was published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.  

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