A 17-year-old British study on more than 9000 children born in the 1990s suggests that children who consume ultra-processed foods have more chances of becoming obese or overweight.
The researchers also found that ultra-processed foods such as frozen pizza, fizzy drinks, slices of bread, ready to eat meals consist of a high portion of children’s diets, which is 60% of calories on average.
Dr. Eszter Vamos, a clinical lecturer in Public Health Medicine at Imperial College London and the author of the study, says that one of the most critical aspects we discover here is the dose-response relationship.
“These findings also point out that children who eat the most ultra processed foods are at more risk, but the quantity of this consumption also matters.” Vamos added.
The food processing industry uses to modify the food products, change their consistency, color, taste, and extend the shelf life. This processing is done using chemical and mechanical methods that make the products more appealing, cheap, and palpable, a process that doesn’t happen in home food.
These ultra-processed foods have more energy and less nutrition. Most processed foods have high sugar levels, salt, saturated fats, and low levels of nutrients like protein, fiber, and micronutrients.
Researchers had on trial at least 9000 children, from the age of seven to the age of twenty-four. Their food diaries were filled at the ages of 7, 10, and 13, recording all the food they consumed over three days. Their BMI ( Body Mass Index), waist measurement, and body fat percentage were also noted.
These children were divided into five groups, and groups were based on the amount of ultra-processed foods they consumed. The lowest category ultra-processed foods occupied one-fifth of their total diet, and in the highest class, these foods had more than two-thirds proportion.
According to findings over the years, researchers noted that children who consumed more ultra-processed foods saw turbulent increases in their BMI, waist measurement, and body fat as they grew.
By the end of the trial, the group of children who consumed more ultra-processed food at the age of 24 witnessed a higher BMI level by 1.2/ m², higher fat percent by 1.5% weight by 3.7 kg, and increased waist circumference 3.1 inches.
While the study has shown a significant link between consumption of ultra-processed foods and increased fat percentage, it has not demonstrated its cause and effect.
The researchers used statistics to account for factors that explain the connection between sex, ethnicity, birth weight, and physical activity.
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