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Lower nutritional quality food associated with cancer risk

The consumption of foods with higher scores on the British Food Standards Agency nutrient profiling system (FSAm-NPS), reflecting a lower nutritional quality, is associated with an increased risk of developing cancer, according to a study. The study, conducted by Mélanie Deschasaux of the French National Institute for Health and Medical Research (INSERM U1153/Inra/Cnam/Paris 13 University-EREN), France and colleagues, in association with the World Health Organisation (WHO)-IARC, suggests broad potential for the use of FSAm-NPS-based package labelling (Nutri-Score) to promote healthy food choices in European settings.

Helping consumers make healthier food choices is a key challenge for the prevention of cancer and other chronic diseases. European authorities are considering implementing a unique nutrition label as a system to reflect the nutritional quality of food products, among which the five-color Nutri-Score derived from the FSAm-NPS, used in France and recently endorsed by Belgian authorities. How the consumption of foods with high/low FSAm-NPS scores relates to cancer risk has been studied in national and regional cohorts but has not been characterised in diverse European populations.

In their study, Deschasaux and colleagues analysed food intake data from 471,495 adults from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC, 1992–2014, median follow-up: 15.3 y), among whom there were 49,794 incident cancer cases (main locations: breast, n = 12,063; prostate, n = 6,745; colon-rectum, n = 5,806). The researchers assigned each participant’s diet a FSAm-NPS Dietary Index (DI), and computed multi-adjusted Cox proportional hazards models to describe any associations between the FSAm-NPS DI and cancer risks.

Absolute cancer rates in those with high and low (quintiles 5 and 1) FSAm-NPS DI were 81.4 and 69.5 cases/10,000 person-years, respectively. The researchers found that a higher FSAm-NPS DI, reflecting a lower nutritional quality of food consumed, was associated with a higher risk of total cancer (HR for Q5 versus Q1: 1.07; 95% CI: 1.03–1.10, P-trend < 0.001). Higher FSAm-NPS DI were specifically associated with higher risks of cancers of the colon-rectum, upper aerodigestive tract and stomach, lung for men, and liver and postmenopausal breast for women (all P < 0.05). The main study limitation was the use of self-reported dietary data, collected 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.”

Abstract
Background: Helping consumers make healthier food choices is a key issue for the prevention of cancer and other diseases. In many countries, political authorities are considering the implementation of a simplified labelling system to reflect the nutritional quality of food products. The Nutri-Score, a five-colour nutrition label, is derived from the Nutrient Profiling System of the British Food Standards Agency (modified version) (FSAm-NPS). How the consumption of foods with high/low FSAm-NPS relates to cancer risk has been studied in national/regional cohorts but has not been characterized in diverse European populations.
Methods and findings: This prospective analysis included 471,495 adults from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC, 1992–2014, median follow-up: 15.3 y), among whom there were 49,794 incident cancer cases (main locations: breast, n = 12,063; prostate, n = 6,745; colon-rectum, n = 5,806). Usual food intakes were assessed with standardized country-specific diet assessment methods. The FSAm-NPS was calculated for each food/beverage using their 100-g content in energy, sugar, saturated fatty acid, sodium, fibres, proteins, and fruits/vegetables/legumes/nuts. The FSAm-NPS scores of all food items usually consumed by a participant were averaged to obtain the individual FSAm-NPS Dietary Index (DI) scores. Multi-adjusted Cox proportional hazards models were computed. A higher FSAm-NPS DI score, reflecting a lower nutritional quality of the food consumed, was associated with a higher risk of total cancer (HRQ5 versus Q1 = 1.07; 95% CI 1.03–1.10, P-trend < 0.001). Absolute cancer rates in those with high and low (quintiles 5 and 1) FSAm-NPS DI scores were 81.4 and 69.5 cases/10,000 person-years, respectively. Higher FSAm-NPS DI scores were specifically associated with higher risks of cancers of the colon-rectum, upper aerodigestive tract and stomach, lung for men, and liver and postmenopausal breast for women (all P < 0.05). The main study limitation is that it was based on an observational cohort using self-reported dietary data obtained through a single baseline food frequency questionnaire; thus, exposure misclassification and residual confounding cannot be ruled out.
Conclusions: In this large multinational European cohort, the consumption of food products with a higher FSAm-NPS score (lower nutritional quality) was associated with a higher risk of cancer. 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.

Authors
Mélanie Deschasaux, Inge Huybrechts, Neil Murphy, Chantal Julia, Serge Hercberg, Bernard Srour, Emmanuelle Kesse-Guyot, Paule Latino-Martel, Carine Biessy, Corinne Casagrande, Mazda Jenab, Heather Ward, Elisabete Weiderpass, Christina C Dahm, Kim Overvad, Cecilie Kyrø, Anja Olsen, Aurélie Affret, Marie-Christine Boutron-Ruault, Yahya Mahamat-Saleh, Rudolf Kaaks, Tilman Kühn, Heiner Boeing, Lukas Schwingshackl, Christina Bamia, Eleni Peppa, Antonia Trichopoulou, Giovanna Masala, Vittorio Krogh, Salvatore Panico, Rosario Tumino, Bas Bueno-de-Mesquita, Petra H Peeters, Anette Hjartåker, Charlotta Rylander, Guri Skeie, Paula Jakszyn, Elena Salamanca-Fernández, José María Huerta, Eva Ardanaz, Pilar Amiano, Ulrika Ericson, Emily Sonestedt, Ena Huseinovic, Ingegerd Johansson, Kay-Tee Khaw, Nick Wareham, Kathryn E Bradbury, Aurora Perez-Cornago, Konstantinos K Tsilidis, Pietro Ferrari, Elio Riboli, Marc J Gunter, Mathilde Touvier

[link url="https://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.1002651"]PLOS Medicine abstract[/link]

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