It is estimated that at least one third of all cancer cases are preventable through the reduction of modifiable risk factors such as tobacco use, poor diet, physical inactivity and overweight and obesity. Targeting these modifiable risk factors through public health interventions, which aim to produce small but consistent and widespread population-level behaviour change, has the potential to achieve large reductions in health burdens associated with cancer. Over-consumption of unhealthy foods and drinks has led to a decades-long global health crisis. Ultra-processed (i.e. industrially engineered) foods and drinks now dominate the food environment. These foods increase the risk of obesity, a causal risk factor for numerous cancers, and exposure to carcinogenic by-products that are created through industrial processing techniques.
This project aims to reduce cancer risk through the development of simple and easily understood communication tools so that consumers understand the risk of weight gain and cancer associated with ultra-processed food consumption and the importance of reducing intake of these foods where possible. The Australian Dietary Guidelines refer to ‘discretionary’ foods and drinks as surplus to nutritional needs, but this is poorly understood and does little to convey dietary risk. Moreover, clinicians cite the complexity of dietary advice as a barrier to discussing dietary risk with their patients. This project will develop a simplified communication framework, based on level-of-processing rather than nutrients, that can be used by clinicians and policy makers, to convey the need to reduce ultra-processed food consumption to reduce cancer risk.