Consuming foods with low nutritional quality was associated with a higher risk for cancer, according to findings published PLOS Medicine.
“About a third of the most common cancers in Western countries are estimated to be preventable through appropriate nutritional behaviors,” Mélanie Deschasaux, MSc, from Sorbonne Paris Cité Epidemiology and Statistics Research Center, and colleagues wrote. “If nutrition can be modified at the individual level and therefore targeted by public health policies, informing the general population to make healthy, evidence-based nutritional decisions remains an important challenge.”
Deschasaux and colleagues analyzed food intake data to determine how the consumption of foods with high and low nutritional value affects cancer risk among a diverse European population.
They studied 471,495 adults from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (median follow-up, 15.3 years). A total of 49,794 incident cancer cases, mainly breast (n = 12,063), prostate (n = 6,745) and colon-rectum (n = 5,806) cancers, occurred among the participants.
Consuming foods with low nutritional quality was associated with a higher risk for cancer.
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Participants completed questionnaires on their usual dietary intake. The researchers measured the quality of foods using the Nutrient Profiling System of the British Food Standards Agency (modified version) (FSAm-NPS) score. The average of the FSAm-NPS scores for all the foods usually consumed by participants was used to calculate individual FSAm-NPS Dietary Index (DI) scores. A higher score indicated lower nutritional quality of the foods consumed.
Participants were grouped into five quintiles. Quintile 1 had a mean FSAm-NPS DI score of 3. Quintile 2 had a mean FSAm-NPS DI score of 4.8. Quintile 3 had a mean FSAm-NPS DI score of 5.9. Quintile 4 had a mean FSAm-NPS DI score of 7.1. Quintile 5 had a mean FSAm-NPS DI score of 8.9. Participants in the highest quintile were more likely to consume higher intakes of alcohol and red and processed meat and lower intakes of dietary fibers, vegetables, fruit, fish and lean meat.
Data showed that participants with a higher FSAm-NPS DI score were more likely to have an increased risk of total cancer (HR for quintile 5 vs. quintile 1 = 1.07; 95% CI, 1.03-1.1). Participants with the highest FSAm-NPS DI scores had an absolute cancer rate of 81.4 cases per 10,000 person-years, whereas those with the lowest FSAm-NPS DI scores had an absolute cancer rate of 69.5 cases per 10,000 person-years.
In men, there was an association between higher FSAm-NPS DI scores and higher risks for colon-rectum, upper aerodigestive tract and stomach and lung cancers. In women, there was an association between higher FSAm-NPS DI scores and higher risks of liver and postmenopausal breast cancers.
“These findings add support to the relevance of using the FSAm-NPS to grade the nutritional quality of food products as a basis for prevention strategies for cancer and other chronic diseases,” Deschasaux and colleagues concluded. “These findings will play a role in communications about the merits of the Nutri-Score to consumers, healthcare professionals and economic operators, in the context of the ongoing European/international debate on nutritional labelling.” – by Alaina Tedesco
The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.