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What we have learned from the world's largest nutrition study

Principal Investigator
the NutriNet-Santé
BMC Medicine
The Nutri-Score
the European Union
the Nutri-Score
the International Journal of Epidemiology
The NutriNet-Santé
Medical News

Mathilde Touvier

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Positivity     37.33%   
   Negativity   62.67%
The New York Times
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The study is financed entirely by public institutions.Article highlights:In recent years, ultra-processed foods have become a nutritional pariah, and the NutriNet-Santé study has played no small part in this.Over recent years, data from the NutriNet-Santé study have revealed associations between diets high in ultra-processed foods and an increased risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, mortality, depressive symptoms, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and gastrointestinal disorders.As an example, one paper based on data from the NutriNet-Santé cohort, which appeared in the BMJ in 2018, concluded:“In this large prospective study, a 10% increase in the proportion of ultra-processed foods in the diet was associated with a significant increase of greater than 10% in risks of overall and breast cancer.”Another study using their data, which also appeared in BMJ, concludes:“[H]igher consumption of ultra-processed foods was associated with higher risks of cardiovascular, coronary heart, and cerebrovascular diseases.”Yet more research, which appeared in BMC Medicine in 2019, investigated ultra-processed foods and their links with depression. We also validated it in other independent cohorts,” explained Dr. Touvier.“We also used the NutriNet-Santé cohort to validate how the score is understood and used by participants to rate nutritional quality.”And, even more importantly, the research has shown that in a grocery setting, people with access to this type of labeling choose more healthful foods. They are in the process of assessing whether certain pesticidal cocktails might be associated with specific health outcomes.According to Dr. Touvier, one such study, which has just been accepted for publication in the International Journal of Epidemiology, found that:“People exposed to these cocktails of pesticides had a higher risk of postmenopausal breast cancer.”As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, so does NutriNet-Santé’s data collection. The NutriNet-Santé study, however, is publicly funded, and the data are not open access.As Dr. Touvier explained, “we have a moral agreement with the participants not to provide the data to the food industry.” However, the team does “share their data with other public researchers.”Correlation versus causation is the thorn in any observational study’s heel. As the number of participants in the study steadily grows, Dr. Touvier hopes that the NutriNet-Santé team can “continue indefinitely.” Undoubtedly, the insights that this team generates will have a beneficial effect on the health of future generations.Nutrition is the study of food and how it affects the body.

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