Cancer Risk Linked to Eating Foods With Low Nutritional Quality

Cancer Risk Linked to Eating Foods With Low Nutritional Quality

by Suchitra Chari on Sep 22 2018 3:48 PM
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  • Consumption of foods that have a high score on a British nutrient profiling system known as FSAm-NPS is associated with an increased risk of developing cancer
  • A high score in the nutrient profiling system denotes a low nutritional quality of the foods
  • Already established in Britain, European authorities are considering implementing the five-color Nutri-Score, a unique nutrition label that reflects the nutritional quality of food products to help consumers make healthier food choices for the prevention of cancer and other chronic diseases
Eating foods that have a lower nutrient quantity is associated with a higher risk of developing cancer, according to a study conducted by Mélanie Deschasaux of the French National Institute for Health and Medical Research, Paris, France and colleagues, in association with the WHO-IARC.
The study is published in the journal PLOS Medicine.

The British Food Standards Agency nutrient profiling system or FSAm-NPS has a five-color labeling system called the Five-Colour Nutrition Label/Nutri-score which is used to label overall nutritional quality of food products.

The FSAm-NPS calculates a single score for each food/beverage using input variables like amount per 100g of energy, total sugars, saturated fatty acid (SFA), sodium, dietary fibers, proteins, and fruits and vegetables. Higher scores on FSAm-NPS system meant the foods have lower nutritional quality.

Now, European authorities are also keen on helping consumers make healthier food choices for the prevention of cancer and other chronic diseases. Hence, they are planning to implement the five-color Nutri-score system derived from FSAm-NPS. The Nutri-score is a unique nutrition label to reflect the nutritional quality of food products. The system is already being used in France and recently endorsed in Belgium.

So far, how the scores of foods with high/low FSAm-NPS relate to cancer risk has been studied in national and regional cohorts but has not yet been studied in diverse European populations.


Deschasaux and colleagues studied food intake data from 471,495 adults from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition from years 1992 to 2014 with a median follow-up of 15.3 years. Among them, there were 49,794 cancer cases whose cancers were mainly in the breast (12,063), prostate (6,745), and colon-rectum (5,806).

The researchers assigned an FSAm-NPS Dietary Index (DI) for each participant’s diet and computed models to find out associations between the DI and cancer risks.
  • A high FSAm-NPS DI score of 5 quintiles which reflects a lower nutritional quality of food was associated with higher absolute cancer rates - 81.4 cases/10,000 person-years
  • A Lower FSAm-NPS DI score of 1 quintile was associated with a lower absolute cancer rates – 69.5 cases/10,000 person-years
  • Higher FSAm-NPS DI were specifically associated with higher risks of colon-rectum cancer, upper aerodigestive tract and stomach cancers, lung cancer for men, and liver and postmenopausal breast cancers for women
The study’s limitation was that the dietary data were all self-reported and collected only once at baseline.

The authors state, "This supports the relevance of the FSAm-NPS as underlying nutrient profiling system for front-of-pack nutrition labels, as well as for other public health nutritional measures."

  1. Nutritional quality of food as represented by the FSAm-NPS nutrient profiling system underlying the Nutri-Score label and cancer risk in Europe: Results from the EPIC prospective cohort study - (