New Study: Ultra-Processed Foods Linked to Increased Risk of Cancer & Death

One of the issues here is that while increasingly this risk has become well-known over the past decade. The bigger issue is that for most people I know, there has been a seemingly inexorable trend towards increasing use of pre-packaged foods because of long work hours and busy lives… work, and family pressures are hard to balance, and pre-processed foods seemed to be a huge help. But now we realize “not so much”.

I’ve moved much more to simple, whole food but many people like the taste of more complex tastes of foods and that tends to require more time, or purchasing of pre-processed foods.

Researchers from Imperial College London’s School of Public Health have produced the most comprehensive assessment to date of the association between ultra-processed foods and the risk of developing cancers. Ultra-processed foods are food items that have been heavily processed during their production, such as fizzy drinks, mass-produced packaged breads, many ready meals, and most breakfast cereals.

Research Paper:

Reference: “Ultra-processed food consumption, cancer risk and cancer mortality: a large-scale prospective analysis within the UK Biobank” by Kiara Chang, Marc J. Gunter, Fernanda Rauber, Renata B. Levy, Inge Huybrechts, Nathalie Kliemann, Christopher Millett and Eszter P. Vamos, 31 January 2023, EClinicalMedicine .


Global dietary patterns are increasingly dominated by relatively cheap, highly palatable, and ready-to-eat ultra-processed foods (UPFs). However, prospective evidence is limited on cancer development and mortality in relation to UPF consumption. This study examines associations between UPF consumption and risk of cancer and associated mortality for 34 site-specific cancers in a large cohort of British adults.


Our UK-based cohort study suggests that higher UPF consumption may be linked to an increased burden and mortality for overall and certain site-specific cancers especially ovarian cancer in women.

Related reading:


This is not the first.There was one by Chinese researchers last year (I asked for PDF on reddit’s /r/Scholar). The press release accompanying that mentioned hummus, which surprised me.

I really want to know if this is inclusive of fake meat (esp beyond meat) and keto breads, which are also both ultra-processed, but not nutritionally as problematic as potato chips or bagels…


It would be really nice to get a list of foods that are non-obvious (like bread for example, I was surprised by this) that are considered “ultra-processed”. Other than McDonalds and pretty much any PepsiCo or General Foods products - its not always completely clear what is ultra processed.

Hummus? Really?

What is ultra-processed food? | Heart and Stroke Foundation.

Spain and Italy consume way less than UK, which might explain lifespan difference (it’s not huge and they do smoke more and still eat other shitty food, but it’s still significant in light of them being poorer)

Counterpoint? (I have a browser add-on installed that flags studies with pubpeer comments.)


Hong Kong eats a lot less ultra-processed foods. Lots of fresh vegetables and fish. This could be why it has the highest life expectancy in the world. Same for #2 Japan.

1 Like

Full article says:

“The mean UPF consumption was 22.9% (SD 13.3%) in the total diet.”

Their definition of UPF is:

“(4) UPFs, e.g. soft drinks, mass-produced industrial-processed breads, sweet or savoury packaged snacks, breakfast ‘cereals’, reconstituted meat products and ready-to-eat/heat foods.”

A can of coke has 140 calories. If they have two, that is 280. A Danish has 106 calories. So it looks more like it is the soda and sweet stuff that are the culprits. You can throw in the instant ramen (188 calories), survival food of college kids.

Looks like clickbait to me.

It’s probably not because of the processing but the dietary fat composition in the diet. In 1980 non-HDL-c it was low while in Western countries very high. The older population had a lower apoB + non-HDL-c throughout their lives:

1 Like

1 Like

Lol I ate a pack of Beyond Chips today, it was addicting, I was glad I just ordered one.

Most of the other ThinSlim Breads are fine (the breads are less addicting than the chips or more processed foods).

I also fall for Beyond Meat, but don’t eat it that often. Tbf I don’t think it’s as problematic as most other processed foods, but it should still always have an asterisk after it bc it’s a giant unknown

1 Like