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Ultra-Processed Foods May Be Linked to Increased Risk of Cancer

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Summary: High consumption of ultra-processed foods, including soda, chips, and some white bread products, was associated with an increased risk of developing and dying from certain kinds of cancer, including brain cancer.

Source: Imperial College London

Higher consumption of ultra-processed foods may be linked to an increased risk of developing and dying from cancer, an Imperial College London-led observational study suggests.

Researchers from Imperial’s School of Public Health have produced the most comprehensive assessment to date of the association between ultra-processed foods and the risk of developing cancers.

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Ultra-processed foods are food items which have been heavily processed during their production, such as fizzy drinks, mass-produced packaged breads, many ready meals and most breakfast cereals.

Ultra-processed foods are often relatively cheap, convenient, and heavily marketed, often as healthy options. But these foods are also generally higher in salt, fat, sugar, and contain artificial additives. It is now well documented that they are linked with a range of poor health outcomes including obesity, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

The first UK study of its kind used UK Biobank records to collect information on the diets of 200,000 middle-aged adult participants. Researchers monitored participants’ health over a 10-year period, looking at the risk of developing any cancer overall as well as the specific risk of developing 34 types of cancer. They also looked at the risk of people dying from cancer.

The study found that higher consumption of ultra-processed foods was associated with a greater risk of developing cancer overall, and specifically with ovarian and brain cancers. It was also associated with an increased risk of dying from cancer, most notably with ovarian and breast cancers.

For every 10 percent increase in ultra-processed food in a person’s diet, there was an increased incidence of 2 percent for cancer overall, and a 19 percent increase for ovarian cancer specifically.

Each 10 percent increase in ultra-processed food consumption was also associated with increased mortality for cancer overall by 6 percent, alongside a 16 percent increase for breast cancer and a 30 percent increase for ovarian cancer.

These links remained after adjusting for a range of socio-economic, behavioral and dietary factors, such as smoking status, physical activity and body mass index (BMI).

The Imperial team carried out the study, which is published in eClinicalMedicine, in collaboration with researchers from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), University of São Paulo, and NOVA University Lisbon.

Previous research from the team reported the levels of consumption of ultra-processed foods in the UK, which are the highest in Europe for both adults and children. The team also found that higher consumption of ultra-processed foods was associated with a greater risk of developing obesity and type 2 diabetes in UK adults, and a greater weight gain in UK children extending from childhood to young adulthood.

Dr. Eszter Vamos, lead senior author for the study, from Imperial College London’s School of Public Health, said, “This study adds to the growing evidence that ultra-processed foods are likely to negatively impact our health including our risk for cancer. Given the high levels of consumption in UK adults and children, this has important implications for future health outcomes.

“Although our study cannot prove causation, other available evidence shows that reducing ultra-processed foods in our diet could provide important health benefits. Further research is needed to confirm these findings and understand the best public health strategies to reduce the widespread presence and harms of ultra-processed foods in our diet.”

Dr. Kiara Chang, first author for the study, from Imperial College London’s School of Public Health, said, “The average person in the UK consumes more than half of their daily energy intake from ultra-processed foods.

“This is exceptionally high and concerning as ultra-processed foods are produced with industrially derived ingredients and often use food additives to adjust color, flavor, consistency, texture, or extend shelf life.

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The study found that higher consumption of ultra-processed foods was associated with a greater risk of developing cancer overall, and specifically with ovarian and brain cancers. Image is in the public domain

“Our bodies may not react the same way to these ultra-processed ingredients and additives as they do to fresh and nutritious minimally processed foods. However, ultra-processed foods are everywhere and highly marketed with cheap price and attractive packaging to promote consumption. This shows our food environment needs urgent reform to protect the population from ultra-processed foods.”

The World Health Organization and the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization has previously recommended restricting ultra-processed foods as part of a healthy sustainable diet.

There are ongoing efforts to reduce ultra-processed food consumption around the world, with countries such as Brazil, France and Canada updating their national dietary guidelines with recommendations to limit such foods. Brazil has also banned the marketing of ultra-processed foods in schools. There are currently no similar measures to tackle ultra-processed foods in the UK.

Dr. Chang added, “We need clear front of pack warning labels for ultra-processed foods to aid consumer choices, and our sugar tax should be extended to cover ultra-processed fizzy drinks, fruit-based and milk-based drinks, as well as other ultra-processed products.

“Lower income households are particularly vulnerable to these cheap and unhealthy ultra-processed foods. Minimally processed and freshly prepared meals should be subsidized to ensure everyone has access to healthy, nutritious and affordable options.”

The researchers note that their study is observational, so does not show a causal link between ultra-processed foods and cancer due to the observational nature of the research. More work is needed in this area to establish a causal link.

About this diet and brain cancer research news

Author: Press Office
Source: Imperial College London
Contact: Press Office – Imperial College London
Image: The image is in the public domain

Original Research: The findings will appear in eClinicalMedicine

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'Pandora's Box': Doctors Warn of Rising Plant Fungus Infections in People After 'First of Its Kind' Case – VICE

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A man in India is the first human known to be infected by a fungus called Chondrostereum purpureum, a pathogen that is most well-known for causing a disease called silver leaf in plants, reports a new study. 

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The patient, who was 61 at the time of the diagnosis, made a full recovery and has not experienced any recurrence of the infection after two years of follow-up observations. However, this “first of its kind” case study exemplifies the risks that fungal pathogens pose for humans, especially now that climate change and other human activities like rampant urbanization, have opened a “Pandora’s Box for newer fungal diseases” by contributing to their spread, according to the study. 

Fungal pathogens are having a pop culture moment because they are the source of a fictional disease depicted in apocalyptic game The Last of Us, which was recently adapted into the acclaimed HBO series of the same name. But these microbes are also a real-life scourge that infect about 150 million people every year, resulting in about 1.7 million deaths. 

Though millions of fungal species exist, only a very small fraction of them are able to infect animals, including humans, because our bodies present challenges to these invaders such as high temperatures and sophisticated immune systems. 

Soma Dutta and Ujjwayini Ray, doctors at Apollo Multispecialty Hospitals in Kolkata, India, have now added one more fungus to that small list of human invaders with their unprecedented report of a C. purpureum infection. The patient, a plant mycologist, had suffered from cough, fatigue, anorexia, and a throat abscess for months before his hospital visit, and was probably exposed to the fungus as a result of his profession. 

When conventional techniques failed to diagnose the disease, the pathogen was sent to a World Health Organization center based in India where it was finally identified using DNA sequencing. The case “highlights the potential of environmental plant fungi to cause disease in humans and stresses the importance of molecular techniques to identify the causative fungal species,” according to their recent study in the journal Medical Mycology Case Reports

“This is a first of its kind of a case wherein this plant fungus caused disease in a human,” Dutta and Ray said in the study. “This case report demonstrates the crossover of plant pathogens into humans when working in close contact with plant fungi. The cross-kingdom pathogenicity demands much work to be done in order to explore insights of the mechanisms involved, thus leading to possible recommendations to control and contain these infections.”

C. purpureum can infect a variety of different plants with silver leaf disease, an often fatal condition that is named after the color that the pathogen induces on the leaves on the hosts. It is the latest in a growing number of fungal pathogens that have infected humans, which are buoyed on in part by human activities, such as urbanization, travel, and commerce. 

Human-driven climate change is also accelerating the spread of infectious diseases, including fungal pathogens, by allowing microbes to adapt to higher temperatures (like those in mammal bodies), expand their range, and interact with new hosts in the aftermath of extreme weather events. And though fungal diseases have maintained a lower profile in epidemiology compared to other pathogens, they may be more dangerous than viruses or bacteria in some contexts.

“While viral and bacterial diseases receive most attention as the potential cause of plagues and pandemics, fungi can arguably pose equal or even greater threats,” according to a 2021 study in PLoS Pathogens. “There are no vaccines available yet for fungal pathogens, the arsenal of antifungal agents is extremely limited, and fungi can live saprotrophically, producing large quantities of infectious spores and do not require host-to-host contact to establish infection. Indeed, fungi seem to be uniquely capable of causing complete host extinction.”

In addition to avoiding the spread of new fungal pathogens that can directly infect humans, researchers also point to the damage these diseases can deal to crops and ecosystems that people depend on. For this reason, Dutta and Ray recommend more research into the nature of these infections and strategies to mitigate their spread.

“Cross-kingdom human pathogens, and their potential plant reservoirs, have important implications for the emergence of infectious diseases,” Dutta and Ray said. “Fungi are also responsible for various infections in plants that cause destruction of millions of plants and crops” and “produce toxins that contaminate food and cause acute toxicity.”

“Over the past several decades multiple new pathogenic fungi have emerged,” they concluded. “A notable emergence of the multidrug resistant fungus Candida auris has spread all over the world and has become a significant threat. The worsening of global warming and other civilization activities opens Pandora’s Box for newer fungal diseases.”

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Staff reassigned to children’s ICU in Winnipeg, some surgeries postponed: Shared Health – Global News

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An influx of kids sick with respiratory illness at the children’s pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) in Winnipeg has forced a staff shakeup that may result in the postponement of some non-urgent surgeries, health officials say.

Shared Health says roughly 10 staff — including some from pediatric surgical and recovery units — are being temporarily reassigned to help at Health Sciences Centre Children’s ICU.

Read more:

Children’s ER seeing ‘unprecedented’ patient levels in Winnipeg as feds secure more pain medications

Officials say a resurgence in respiratory illness circulating in the province is to blame for an uptick in kids ending up in the hospital’s ICU.

There were 17 kids receiving intensive care in the PICU as of Thursday morning. The PICU’s normal baseline capacity is nine.


Click to play video: 'Update on COVID-19 boosters'

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Update on COVID-19 boosters


“A significant number of these patients were experiencing medically complex cases that were further complicated by respiratory illness, including infants and young children,” Shared Health said in an online statement.

There were 51 patients in the hospital’s neonatal ICU Thursday morning. The normal baseline capacity there is 50.

Meanwhile, Shared Health says the number of kids visiting the ER with influenza-like symptoms has increased from a low of 22 on March 18 to 47 on Wednesday.

Read more:

Children’s ER seeing ‘unprecedented’ patient levels in Winnipeg as feds secure more pain medications

Shared Health didn’t say how long it expects the latest staff reassignments will be in place.

While all urgent and life-threatening surgeries will continue to be performed, Shared Health said some non-urgent procedures will be postponed.

Families of affected patients will be contacted, officials said.


Click to play video: 'New downtown exhibit compares Winnipeg’s COVID-19 response to the Spanish Flu'

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New downtown exhibit compares Winnipeg’s COVID-19 response to the Spanish Flu


&copy 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Syphilis In Babies Skyrockets In Canada Amid Rising Drug Use – NDTV

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Toronto:

The numbers of babies born with syphilis in Canada are rising at a far faster rate than recorded in the United States or Europe, an increase public health experts said is driven by increased methamphetamine use and lack of access to the public health system for Indigenous people.

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While syphilis has made a global resurgence over the last five years, Canada is an outlier among wealthy nations in its rate of increase: 13-fold over five years, according to Health Canada. The incidence of babies born with syphilis reached 26 per 100,000 live births in 2021, the most recent year available, up from 2 in 2017, according to the Health Canada data.

That total is on track to increase further in 2022, according to the preliminary government data obtained by Reuters.

Babies with congenital syphilis are at higher risk of low birthweight, bone malformations and sensory difficulties, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Syphilis in pregnancy is the second-leading cause of stillbirth worldwide, the WHO said.

Yet congenital syphilis is easily preventable if an infected person gets access to penicillin during their pregnancy.

Among the G7 group of wealthier nations for which data is available, only the United States had a higher incidence of syphilis at birth: 74 per 100,000 live births in 2021, triple the rate in 2017, according to preliminary figures from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

There were 2,677 cases of congenital syphilis in the U.S. in 2021 for a population of 332 million, according to preliminary CDC data. Canada had 96 cases for a population of 38 million, according to Health Canada.

People experiencing poverty, homelessness and drug use, and those with inadequate access to the health system, are more likely to contract syphilis through unsafe sex and pass it to their babies, public health researchers said.

“In high-income countries you see it in pockets of disadvantaged populations,” said Teodora Elvira Wi, who works in the WHO’s HIV, Hepatitis and sexually transmitted infection program.

“It’s a marker of inequality. It’s a marker of low-quality prenatal care.”

What sets Canada apart are its Indigenous populations who experience discrimination and often have poor access to health and social services, said Sean Rourke, a scientist with the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, who focuses on prevention of sexually transmitted disease.

“It’s just the whole system, and all the things that we’ve done in bad ways not to support Indigenous communities,” he said.

Health Canada told Reuters it has dispatched epidemiologists to help provinces contain the increase in congenital syphilis. Spokesperson Joshua Coke said the federal government is expanding testing and treatment access in Indigenous communities.

Tessa, an Indigenous 28-year-old woman who asked to be identified only by her middle name, said she had a years-long crystal meth addiction and was homeless when she got pregnant in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

“I would be walking down the street just crying: ‘Why am I living like this?'” she told Reuters.

She said she received no prenatal care until she went into labor in November, which is when she tested positive for HIV and syphilis during a routine test.

Her daughter was prescribed a 10-day course of antibiotics, administered by IV, and is now healthy, Tessa said. But she still thinks about the difficulties she experienced in accessing prenatal care.

“Having transportation, maybe, and a place to live, and being sober, probably would have helped, big time,” she said.

Susanne Nicolay, nurse lead at Wellness Wheel clinic in Regina, Saskatchewan, which serves Indigenous and vulnerable populations, said providers needed to do more to expand access to health care. “The system always talks about patients that are hard to reach. But I think it’s health providers that are hard to reach,” she said.

‘MULTIPLE FAILURES’

A lot needs to go wrong for a baby to be born with syphilis, said Jared Bullard, a Manitoba pediatrician who has been researching babies born with syphilis since 2021 in an ongoing study for the Public Health Agency of Canada.

“It’s pointing at multiple failures along the path,” he said.

In Canada, the rise in babies born with syphilis is concentrated in the three prairie provinces: Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta.

Prairie provinces have higher crystal meth use and remote populations and Indigenous populations who may have trouble accessing health care, Bullard said.

Manitoba recorded the highest rate, with about 371 cases per 100,000 live births in 2021.

The province said in an emailed statement that it is expanding training for health care providers in addressing sexually transmitted infections, encouraging frequent testing and early treatment. It is digitizing its records of STI infections.

Saskatchewan has launched a public awareness campaign urging people to practice safe sex and get tested, said Dale Hunter, a spokesperson for the provincial health ministry. The province had an incidence of 185 cases of congenital syphilis per 100,00 live births in 2021.

Alberta said women aged 15-29 made up more than half of what it called a “significant increase” in syphilis rates. “The reasons for the increase are not fully known, but it is likely that a variety of factors have contributed to this rise,” Alberta Health Services spokesperson James Wood said.

In preliminary results of a study of 165 infants exposed to syphilis, Bullard and fellow pediatrician Carsten Krueger found at least two-thirds were born to women reporting a history of substance abuse.

About 45% of the women identified as Indigenous and another 40% had no ethnicity recorded. Indigenous people make up about 5% of the Canadian population, according to census data.

About a quarter of the people in the study did not get tested because they got no prenatal care; about one-fifth of those who tested positive did not get treated. Bullard said he has also seen people get treated early in pregnancy and then get re-infected.

Public health researchers and clinicians said the rates of congenital syphilis began increasing before the pandemic and worsened as public health agencies diverted resources to COVID-19 testing and other pandemic-related health measures.

“All of the social circumstances that contributed to this have just gotten worse over the pandemic,” said Ameeta Singh, an infectious diseases specialist with an HIV/STI practice in Edmonton, Alberta.

This month Health Canada approved a syphilis and HIV test that can provide results in less than a minute, allowing providers to begin treatment right away.

Some public health researchers and providers are urging the Canadian government to buy and distribute the tests.

“We probably need a million tests to get out there around the country,” Rourke said. “The solution’s right in front of us.”

Health Canada did not respond when asked about purchasing test kits.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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