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2/3 of Calories in Children and Teen Diets Comes From Ultraprocessed Foods

Publicado em 11 agosto 2021

New research study in JAMA likewise discovered kids and teenagers consume less unprocessed and minimally processed foods.

The calories that kids and teenagers taken in from ultraprocessed foods leapt from 61% to 67% of overall calorie consumption from 1999 to 2018, according to a brand-new research study from scientists at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science & Policy at Tufts University. Published August 10, 2021, in JAMA, the research study evaluated dietary consumption from 33,795 kids and teenagers nationwide.

“Some whole grain breads and dairy foods are ultraprocessed, and they’re healthier than other ultraprocessed foods. Processing can keep food fresher longer, allows for food fortification and enrichment, and enhances consumer convenience,” stated senior and matching author Fang Fang Zhang, nutrition epidemiologist at the Friedman School. “But many ultraprocessed foods are less healthy, with more sugar and salt, and less fiber, than unprocessed and minimally processed foods, and the increase in their consumption by children and teenagers is concerning.”

The biggest spike in calories originated from such ready-to-eat or ready-to-heat meals as takeout and frozen pizza and hamburgers: from 2.2% to 11.2% of calories. The second biggest spike in calories originated from packaged sweet treats and desserts, the usage of which grew from 10.6% to 12.9%.

There was a bigger boost in the usage of ultraprocessed foods amongst non-Hispanic Blacks (10.3%) and Mexican Americans (7.6%) than non-Hispanic Whites (5.2%). Trends in other racial/ethnic groups were not examined due to absence of enough information that permit nationally representative quotes throughout study cycles.

There were no statistically substantial distinctions in the total findings by adult education and household earnings. “The lack of disparities based on parental education and family income indicates that ultraprocessed foods are pervasive in children’s diets,” stated Zhang. “This finding supports the need for researchers to track trends in food consumption more fully, taking into account consumption of ultraprocessed foods.”

Over the research study duration, calories from frequently much healthier unprocessed or minimally processed foods reduced from 28.8% to 23.5%. The staying portion of calories originated from reasonably processed foods such as cheese and canned vegetables and fruits, and consumer-added taste enhancers such as sugar, honey, maple syrup, and butter.

There was great news: Calories from sugar-sweetened drinks dropped from 10.8% to 5.3% of total calories, a 51% drop.

“This finding shows the benefits of the concerted campaign over the past few years to reduce overall consumption of sugary drinks,” stated Zhang. “We need to mobilize the same energy and level of commitment when it comes to other unhealthy ultraprocessed foods such as cakes, cookies, doughnuts and brownies.”

“In additional analyses, we compared the composition of ultraprocessed foods to non-ultra processed foods using data from the 2017-2018 period. We found that ultraprocessed foods contain a substantially higher percent of calories from carbohydrates and added sugars, and higher levels of sodium, but also had less fiber and a lower percentage of calories from protein,” stated the research study’s very first author, Lu Wang, a postdoctoral fellow at the Friedman School.

“Food processing is an often-overlooked dimension in nutrition research. We may need to consider that ultraprocessing of some foods may be associated with health risks, independent of the poor nutrient profile of ultraprocessed foods generally,” concluded Zhang.

Ultraprocessed Foods

Ultraprocessed foods are ready-to-eat or ready-to-heat products frequently high in sugarcoated, salt, and carbs, and low in fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals. They usually consist of sugarcoated, hydrogenated oils, and taste enhancers. Examples consist of packaged sweet treats and desserts, sweet breakfast cereals, French french fries, junk food hamburgers, and some lunchmeats such as bologna and salami. When consumed in excess, these foods are related to diabetes, weight problems, and other major medical conditions, such as specific cancers.


This brand-new research study becomes part of a series led by Friedman School scientists examining patterns and patterns in diet plan quality amongst U.S. grownups and kids. The research study identified patterns in ultraprocessed food usage amongst U.S. kids aged 2-19 years from 1999 to 2018, total and amongst population subgroups, utilizing information from 10 successive cycles of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). It additional examined significant ultraprocessed food subgroups taken in by U.S. kids in the most recent cycle of NHANES (2017-2018) and associated nutrition profiles. The typical age of individuals was 10.7 years and was approximately similarly divided in between young boys and ladies. It depended on 24-hour dietary recall interviews carried out by skilled workers; older kids and teenagers straight reported on the foods they consumed while moms and dads and caretakers did so for more youthful kids. The portion of calories taken in by individuals was identified utilizing the NOVA food category system established by scientists at the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Reference: 10 August 2021, JAMA.

DOI: 10.1001/jama.2021.10238

This research study was supported by the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (award R01MD011501) to Fang Fang Zhang, and the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP) granted to co-author Eurídice Martínez Steele. The material is exclusively the duty of the authors and does not always represent the main views of the National Institutes of Health. For disputes of interest disclosure, please see the research study.