Ultra-processed food and cancer risk

08 June 2024

Philip Silver looks at research into the long-term effects of diet.

Ultra-processed food (UPF), otherwise known as ‘junk food’, is affordable and accessible but offers a low nutritional value with high saturated fat, sugar, and salt content.

In the UK, 57 per cent of adults’ daily intake is derived from UPF, even higher in adolescents (66 per cent). While processed food in itself is not a bad thing, with some processes making food safer and increasing shelf life, ultra-processing is associated with health issues from over-consumption. These well-established risks include heart disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.

Impact on oral health

UPF is often sugary or starchy, which can negatively impact patients’ oral health. When consumed regularly and in excess, sugary snacks and drinks can lead to oral diseases such as caries and gingivitis. Research suggests that higher UPF consumption is associated with increased rates of caries in children and adolescents, highlighting the need for improved diets and oral hygiene education to protect long-term oral health.

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