A new study suggests that people who eat junk food raise their risk of developing cancer, even if they are not overweight.
Research had previously suggested that the increased risk of cancer attached to consuming junk food due to the way in which these foods make people overweight, but this new study found that processed junk foods contributed to a 10 per cent higher risk of cancer in women, even if they were of a healthy weight.
The research used data compiled 90,000 postmenopausal women to compare the effects of diet on cancer rates.
Lead investigator Prof 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.”
The study looked particularly at high energy density (DED) foods. DED is used to measure the quality of food and the link between calories and nutrients; the more calories contained per gram of a weight, the higher the food’s DED.
The researchers discovered that women whose diet contained a greater number of DED foods were 10 per cent more likely to develop cancer, regardless of their weight and BMI. This was, they believe, because higher DED foods caused ‘metabolic dysregulation’ in normal-weight women, with this known to be a factor in increased cancer risk.
Prof Thomson added: “Among normal-weight women a 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.”