We are passionate about fresh food and traditional cooking with our clients.  And we are very mindful of nutrition and personal tastes, so here’s a look behind the Ultra-processed food and Cancer risk headlines

Research conducted by the NutriNet-Santé prospective cohort in Brazil and France was published in the BMJ 14/2/18. It gave rise to alarming headlines on a  subject most of us will not have considered before, “ultra-processed food” and the headlines appeared world wide. You can read more on the research here but we thought we’d present a What is it? and So what? for you.

What is Ultra-processed food and Who does it affect?

Between 25% and 50% of total daily food intake is ultra-processed. Around 50% of an average person in the developed world’s daily diet is ultra-processed. So it affects a lot of people.

The study looked at the four accepted categories of food.  Processed food and ultra-processed food are the focus of the study.  That’s packaged, pre-made, pre- baked, fast food, TV dinners, factory-made baked goods, fizzy drinks and anything whose packaging contains long lists of additives, preservatives, flavourings and colourings.

Raw food and gentle cooking are the most nutritious and these are recommended choices.

We’ve heard of processed food before.  Canned vegetables are ‘processed’.  Food with culinary ingredients (like salt and pepper) have less processing and these processed foods are not implicated in the study.

It’s the industrial processes used in the mass production of foods like sliced bread, confectionary, biscuits, cereals, pre-made meals and fast food that makes food “ultra-processed”.  And it’s the industrial processes, the packaging and the cooking processes involving thickening agents and all the strange ingredients, preservatives, colourings  and chemicals in particular that were found to present the  risk.

The results found greater than a 10% increased risk of cancer and breast cancer in particular, for ultra-processed food consumers. Results of the study found the risk is highest for post-menopausal women.

The research found that the risk was about much more than choosing ultra-produced food over fresh food.  So this is not  just about the need to eat fresh and raw food.  In other words,  it’s not enough to give priority to raw, fresh and basic food.

Crucially, this is first time that the recommendation is to cut down on ultra-processed foods. Meaning the effects of the compounds produced by additives,  industrial processes and the packaging has been  shown to cause the increased cancer risk in this study. Further research is called for.


Other risks

Other health outcomes show an involvement of ultra-processed food as well.  Adverse health such as obesity and hypertension have been traced to ultra-processed food in other studies.


What next?

Read the labels.  If you don’t understand the ingredients, seriously consider what it’s doing to you. You are not a dustbin.  Clean up your choices. Don’t keep asking your body to clean you up.

Hopefully this research will give rise to a lot more investigations.  I think we can be prepared for the food industry to do it’s best to try to discredit this research.  Colleagues in my network agree.

All we can do is arm ourselves with as many facts as we can and be mindful of the ways skilled marketeers affect our lives and our health.

We think this research has the potential to affect  Elderly Malnutrition because as we published for The Malnutrition task force , pre-made and packaged meals are frequent choices for older people.

For further reading we invite you to have a look at our slow cooking recipes and our blogs on eating with frail appetites,  cholesterol and the  boosting a frail appetite piece we wrote for  Unforgettable.

We are not scientists, we are not chefs, we are not nutritionalists. We are passionate about wellbeing especially in later years.  We think we have a common sense approach to healthy eating and we have an army of wonderful carers who want to talk about food, shop and cook food for and with our clients under their direction.

Personally speaking, I would love to see an end to reliance on expensive ping meals and I welcome this research and I hope it gets loads of coverage.

Input from experts

Thank you Nourish by Jane Clarke‘s  Facebook Community and content editor Andrea for answering my question about ultra-processed food so thoroughly in your broadcast 1/3/2018.  Cooking frozen portions of food like fish and frozen veg is a better option than a pre cooked meal, mass produced meal.

Watch her video here: VIDEO