USA – Consuming a diet rich in ultra-processed foods is more likely to make an adolescent overweight or obese, a new study published in the Journal Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has shown.
According to the Nova Food Classification system, ultra-processed foods are formulations made entirely or mostly from ingredients extracted from foods and manufactured using techniques such as extrusion or preprocessing by frying.
Ultra-processed foods may also derive from food constituents or be synthesized from food substrates or organic sources.
Examples of ultra-processed foods include salty or sweet packaged snacks, breakfast cereals and bars, ready-to-eat (RTE) pizza, burgers and hot dogs, candy, pastries, and soft drinks, among others.
According to the study, adolescents as young as 12 who eat a diet of mostly ultra-processed foods are 45% more likely to be obese compared to those with the lowest consumption (18.5% of total diet).
Those who consumed the most ultra-processed food were also 52% more likely to have abdominal obesity and 63% more likely to have visceral obesity, marked by excess fat tissue surrounding the abdominal organs.
Excess visceral fat is linked with serious health conditions such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension and other types of cardiovascular disease (CVD).
The researchers noted that A 10% increase in consumption of ultra-processed foods in the diet was associated with an increased risk of both abdominal overweight/obesity and visceral overweight/obesity.
Obesity in children and adolescents is a “serious problem,” according to the US Center and Disease Control (CDC), which reports about 14.4 million children and adolescents are obese.
According to the organization, the disease plagues 21.2% of young people aged 12 to 19 years, the organization reports.
The study comes at a time when ultra-processed foods are dominating family dinner today and comprise a large—and growing—portion of children’s diets.
In 2018, 67% of the calories consumed by children and adolescents came from ultra-processed foods—up from 61% in 1999.
Despite their popularity, studies have long pointed to widespread availability of high-caloric, less-expensive food as a key contributor to rising obesity rates.
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