FRIDAY, Sept. 2, 2022 (HealthDay News) — High consumption of ultra-processed foods in men is associated with an increased risk for colorectal cancer, according to a study published online Aug. 31 in The BMJ.

Lu Wang, Ph.D., from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University in Boston, and colleagues conducted a prospective cohort study in three large U.S. cohorts with dietary intake assessed every four years using food frequency questionnaires. Data were included for 46,341 men from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, 67,425 women from the Nurses’ Health Study, and 92,482 women from the Nurses’ Health Study II.

The researchers identified 3,216 cases of colorectal cancer during the 24 to 28 years of follow-up. Men in the highest fifth of ultra-processed food consumption had a significantly increased risk for colorectal cancer compared with those in the lowest fifth (hazard ratio, 1.29); the positive association was limited to distal colon cancer (hazard ratio, 1.72). After further adjustment for body mass index or indicators of nutritional quality of the diet, these associations remained significant. Among women, there was no association observed between overall ultra-processed food consumption and risk of colorectal cancer. In subgroups of ultra-processed foods, increased risk was seen for higher consumption of meat-/poultry-/seafood-based ready-to-eat products and sugar-sweetened beverages (hazard ratios, 1.44 and 1.21, respectively) for men and for ready-to-eat/heat mixed dishes among women (hazard ratio, 1.17). Negative associations with the risk for colorectal cancer were seen for yogurt and dairy-based desserts for women (hazard ratio, 0.83).

“The findings support the public health importance of limiting certain types of ultra-processed foods for better health outcomes in the population,” the authors write.

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