Although foods such as soft drinks, chips, and breakfast cereals have been normalized as good meals, these foods are ultra-processed, and new research shows just how dangerous these foods can be. A recent study from the Imperial School of Public Health in London provides new and convincing evidence that ultra-processed foods lead to cancer, especially ovarian and breast cancer.
Now, you may be wondering how one develops cancer. One develops cancer when cells divide uncontrollably. These uncontrollable divisions begin due to a mutation in genes, sections of DNA. Proto-Oncogenes are genes involved in normal cell growth; these genes cause cells to divide. A mutation in a single allele of a proto-oncogene causes a protein to be produced that will exponentially increase the rate of cell division. Tumor suppressor genes are involved in the stopping of cell growth. When both alleles in a tumor suppressor gene are mutated, it leads to an inability to stop cell division.
So, how does ultra-processed food cause mutations in your genes? It is believed that these foods can eventually lead to the mutation of alleles in proto-oncogenes and/or tumor suppressor genes. All ultra-processed foods share the commonality of being created by substances extracted from foods: Fats, starches, added sugars, and hydrogenated fats. A diet consisting of these types of food can lead someone to develop type II diabetes. People with type II diabetes are twice as likely to develop liver or pancreatic cancer. These people also have a much higher risk of developing bladder, colon, or breast cancer. When someone has a lot of excess fat around vital organs, it makes it very easy for cancer cells to get the nutrition they need to keep uncontrollably dividing. The fat from glucose is what the cancer cells need to continue to divide; cancer cells are known to metabolize glucose at 200x the normal rate. When one has Type II diabetes, they have increased blood sugar. If the cancer cells have access to blood flow, the increased blood sugar gives the cancer cells even more nutrients to keep dividing. Even though one can not say for sure, it seems increasingly apparent that avoiding ultra-processed foods is best for your health. So, the next time you want a snack, maybe an apple and a glass of water are your best bet.
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