food additives associated with increased risk of cancer

A soft madeleine as if it had been prepared the same day, a yogurt that keeps for weeks without its taste being altered, an ice cream that does not melt too quickly even in the middle of summer. All this is made possible thanks to the addition of emulsifiers during the industrial manufacturing process: these additives make these ultra-processed foods more appetizing and stabilize their taste and texture over time.

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Except that the consumption of certain emulsifiers is associated with a higher risk of developing cancer. This is the conclusion of a French study published Tuesday February 13 in the monthly review PLOS Medicine, and conducted on more than 90,000 people who were part of the cohort NutriNet-Santéwhose health and lifestyle and consumption habits have been analyzed over nearly seven years.

This monitoring carried out on such a large cohort made it possible to isolate one by one the additives consumed and in what quantities, based on the products purchased by the participants. Other risk factors, such as alcohol or tobacco, could also be taken into account to compensate for possible bias.

Desserts, pastries or ice creams

Among the sixty emulsifiers studied, several were identified as problematic. For example, researchers found that a higher intake of E471 – mono- and diglycerides of fatty acids – increases the risk of cancer by 15%, particularly breast (24%) and prostate ( 46%). Certain additives or groups of additives (E407 and E407a, E450, E440 and E500) have been associated with an increased risk of breast cancer – particularly in premenopausal women for the latter three. Other associations were also observed, but they were not robust enough to pass all the statistical tests carried out by the scientists.

These emulsifiers are found in many industrial products – more than eight out of ten participants, for example, consumed products containing E471 on a daily basis. It can be found in particular in desserts, pastries or ice creams, but also in “foods that are not necessarily labeled “junk food””, underlines nutritionist and research director at Inserm Mathilde Touvier, who carried out this study with her team. We can cite for example “cereal rusks or margarine enriched with omega 3, which are mainly consumed by people who want to take care of their cardiovascular health”she illustrates.

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