May 29, 2023

Portal Turist Coecua Toriano

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Is ultra-processed food taking over the US diet?

In the study – published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition​ – which examined the dietary intake data of 41,000 adults who took part in the CDC’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) from 2001-2018, researchers calculated the percentage of calories consumed from four broad food groups:

(1) minimally processed foods or whole foods, such as vegetables, fruits, grains, meat, and dairy;

(2) processed culinary ingredients, such as olive oil, butter, sugar, and salt;

(3) processed foods, such as cheese, canned fish, and canned beans;

(4) ultra-processed foods, such as frozen pizza, soda, fast food, sweets, salty snacks, canned soup, and most breakfast cereals.

What they found is that ultra-processed foods accounted for over half (57%) of calories consumed by US adults in 2017-2018, an increase from 53.5% in the 2001-2002 period when the study began. 

Recent research​​ conducted by the Friedman School of Nutrition Science & Policy at Tufts University examining NHANES data for 33,795 children and adolescents showed a similar trend: ultra-processed foods made up 67% of child and adolescent’s diet in 2018, an increase from 61.4% in 1999.

In contrast, the consumption of whole foods decreased from 32.7% to 27.4% of calories consumed, mostly due to people eating less meat and dairy, according to the study’s researchers. 

“The overall composition of the average US diet has shifted towards a more processed diet. This is concerning, as eating more ultra-processed foods is associated with poor diet quality and higher risk of several chronic diseases,”​ said lead author of the study Filippa Juul, an assistant professor and postdoctoral fellow at NYU School of Public Health.