Ultra-processed foods increase cardiometabolic risk in children, research shows

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A study led by the Human Nutrition Unit of the University of Rovira i Virgili (URV) has linked the consumption of ultra-processed foods to a greater risk of obesity, increased blood sugar levels and poorer levels of good cholesterol.

High consumption of ultra-processed foods during childhood is associated with poorer cardiometabolic health. This is the main conclusion of a study led by a research team from the Human Nutrition Unit of the URV in collaboration with the Pere Virgili Health Research Institute (IISPV) and the Biomedical Research Networking Center, Physiopathology of Obesity and Nutrition (CIBEROBN).

The study was conducted among boys and girls between the ages of 3 and 6 and the main results were published in the news JAMA network opened.

Ultra-processed foods are often high in saturated fat, sugar, salt, additives and contaminants, while being poor in nutrients. Yet pastries, soft drinks, milkshakes and snacks are often part of children’s diets.

To study their effect on health in the first years of life, the research evaluated how the consumption of these products affects a population of more than 1,500 boys and girls aged 3 to 6 years from different places (Reus, Córdoba, Santiago de Compostela, Navarra Valencia ) affects. , Barcelona and Zaragoza), who are participating in the CORALS multicenter study.

The results showed that children who consumed more ultra-processed foods had higher scores on parameters such as body mass index, waist circumference, fat mass index and blood sugar levels. They also had lower levels of HDL cholesterol (considered good cholesterol) in their blood.

“Our findings are cause for concern,” said Nancy Babio, lead researcher on the study. “Although the magnitude of the associations we found could be considered of limited clinical importance, the boys and girls who participated in our study were very young, yet there was a significant relationship between their consumption and these parameters,” she says. adds.

For the research team, these results should be taken as an early warning of what could happen in the future. “It is essential to recognize the importance of early eating habits and their future implications for cardiometabolic health,” Babio emphasizes.

The study also found that the children of mothers with little education or lower socio-economic levels tended to consume more ultra-processed foods, making them more susceptible to health problems in the future.

“Taking all this into account, public health policies should focus on vulnerable populations,” says Jordi Salas-Salvadó, director of the research team, who also recommends replacing these foods with healthier options such as unprocessed or minimally processed products.

Low price and immediate availability

Ultra-processed foods are becoming increasingly common in the diet. Their easy availability and low price make them widely consumed, especially among children, adolescents and their families, and especially among those most vulnerable from socio-economic and educational points of view, who are more prone to obesity.

In this regard, the study underlines the urgency of addressing the problem of overconsumption of these foods by children and the importance of formulating public policies and taking preventive measures to protect the long-term health of future generations.

The research was conducted by the following team: PhD student Nadine Khoury; URV researcher Nancy Babio and URV professor Jordi Salas-Salvadó – both principal investigators of the university’s Department of Human Nutrition – and postdoctoral researcher María Ángeles Martínez (the three supervisors of Nadine’s thesis). They are all affiliated with the Pere i Virgili Health Research Institute and the Biomedical Research Networking Center. Physiopathology of Obesity and Nutrition (CIBERobn) of the Carlos III Health Institute.

More information:
Nadine Khoury et al., Ultra-processed food consumption and cardiometabolic risk factors in children, JAMA network opened (2024). DOI: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2024.11852

Offered by the University of Rovira i Virgili

Quote: Ultra-processed foods increase cardiometabolic risk in children, study results (2024, May 21) retrieved May 27, 2024 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2024-05-ultra-foods-cardiometabolic-children.html

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