A study conducted by researchers at the University of Sao Paolo has shown that the more adolescents eat ultra-processed foods. the more likely they are to be obese.  The study, published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, followed 3587 adolescents aged 12 – 19 from 2011 to 2016.  They divided them into three groups, according to the percentage of their diet that was made up of ultra-processed foods: up to 29%, between 29% and 47%, or 48% or more.

They found that the percentage of  the adolescents’ diets that consisted of ultra-processed foods ranged from a high of 64% to a low of 18.5%.  Those with the highest level were 45% more likely to be obese, 52% more likely to have excess fat around their waist, and 63% more likely to have excess fat around their liver and intestines.  All of these conditions are connected with developing high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, and an increased risk of dying.

The average percentage of ultra-processed foods in diets is 19% in Colombia, 27% in Brazil, 68% in the UK, and 66% in the US. The negative effect of these foods is consistent in all countries.  They usually contain chemical additives to make them more appealing, they have a higher calorie content, more sugar, salt, and fat, less fiber, and lower nutritional value.  The more children eat ultra-processed foods, the less fresh fruit and vegetables or whole, minimally processed foods they get.  These dietary habits set them up for future health problems and it’s critical to reverse the trend from the beginning and focus on lowering or eliminating the percentage of ultra-processed foods in their diets.

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