August 23, 2021

Young people are getting a greater proportion of their calories from ultra-processed foods, according to a recently published study.

Tufts University in the United States found that in 2018 ultra-processed foods accounted for 67% of total caloric intake, up from 61% in 1999.

While the research involved only the United States, the findings are likely to mirror trends in many other countries where the consumption of fast food and other ultra-processed foods has increased.

Based on data from nearly 34,000 children and adolescents, the research found that the proportion of calories coming from unprocessed or minimally processed foods dropped from 28.8% to 23.5%.

The study, published in the journal Jama, also looked at how healthy ultra-processed and non-ultra-processed foods were.

“We found that ultra-processed foods contain a substantially higher percent of calories from carbohydrates and added sugars, and higher levels of sodium, but also had less fibre and a lower percentage of calories from protein,” said Dr Lu Wang, the study’s first author and a postdoctoral researcher at the university.

Ultra-processed foods blamed fro obesity epidemic in US

Poor diet and a lack of exercise are blamed for the high prevalence of obesity in the United States. According to figures from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, 19.3% of people aged two to 19 years old in the United States are obese.

Alongside its findings about young people obtaining more calories from ultra-processed foods, the study also offered cause for optimism.

There was a reduction from 10.8% to 5.3% in the calories obtained from sugar-sweetened beverages, which translates to a drop of 51%.

Dr Fang Fang Zhang, an associate professor at Tufts University, credited the drop to “a concerted campaign” to reduce the consumption of such drinks.

Many other nations have tried to cut the amount of such drinks sold, often introducing taxes to discourage their purchase.

The researchers in the latest study pointed out that not all ultraprocessed foods are unhealthy and, as reported in Sial Paris Newsroom, efforts are ongoing to preserve the nutrient value of foods during processing.

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