A new study from France has suggested a link between an increased risk for cancer and a diet full of highly processed foods.

The study, which was published in the BMJ, examined dietary surveys from 105,000 adults who did not have cancer – the researchers found that a 10% increase in how much highly process food a person ate was linked to a 12% overall increased risk of developing cancer.


The risk of developing breast breast cancer specifically was 11% higher.

The researchers noted that some of the additives in the highly process foods eaten by those who were studied were suspected carcinogens.

“Ultra-processed foods and beverages contain some food additives for which carcinogenic effects are suspected such as titanium dioxide, a white food pigment which can be found in some confectionaries, chewing-gums, and biscuits,” said the study’s lead author, the French Institute of Health and Medical Research INSERM’s Bernard Srour. “Ultra-processed foods are also often packaged in plastic which might contain contact materials having controversial effects on health, such as bisphenol A (BPA).”

The researchers said, however, that the link requires more research, since those who ate more processed foods in the study were also more likely to exercise less, consume more sugary drinks, and were more likely to be smokers.


The study also did not take place over a long enough period of time to diagnose some tumors that can take years to develop.

“Consumers should not be alarmed at this stage, as these results need to be confirmed,” Srour said.

Martin Lajous, the author of an accompanying editorial, said that evidence suggests that in addition to a lower risk of cancer, eating healthy, whole foods can help lower the risk of other diseases including heart disease and diabetes.

“Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and fish reduces the risk of cancer,” said Lajous. “We know that some processed foods have a higher content of saturated fat, added sugars, salt, and lower fiber. This makes some processed foods unhealthy, so while we wait to know whether unprocessed foods are linked to cancer or not, patients should seek to increase their intake of healthy foods.”


Eat More Whole Foods!

muammerokumus / Flickr

Looking to reduce your intake of processed foods and put more whole foods into your diet? Here are some tips on shifting to a diet with more whole foods!


And here’s a big grocery list with 50 whole foods to look for the next time you’re at the store. Try buying some healthy ingredients to make these great recipes from the Food Monster App!

Endive Salad With Crispy Chickpeas

This Endive Salad With Crispy Chickpeas from Kristina Jug & Mitja Bezenšek is a great use for chickpeas. There’s a bunch of healthy fruits and veggies here, from radicchio to apple!

Soothing Sweet Potato and Beet Soup

Kristina HumphreysSoothing Sweet Potato and Beet Soup is a perfect way to use sweet potatoes, beets, and any beans. This soup is packed with nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin B6, and folate.

Spicy Fried Chickpeas

These Spicy Fried Chickpeas from Nita Ragoonanan are a great protein-packed snack alternative that use chickpeas and habanero peppers.


For more info on eating whole foods, download the Food Monster App, which is available for both Android and iPhone, and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 10,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes, and subscribers gain access to new recipes every day. Check it out!

Lead Image Source: Benson Kua / Flickr