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Ultraprocessed Foods Raise Risk for Cardiometabolic Issues in Children: Daily Dose

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Ultraprocessed Foods Raise Risk for Cardiometabolic Issues in Children: Daily Dose / Image Credit: ©New Africa/AdobeStock
©New Africa/AdobeStock

Patient Care brings primary care clinicians a lot of medical news every day—it’s easy to miss an important study. The Daily Dose provides a concise summary of one of the website's leading stories you may not have seen.


On May 24, 2024, we reported on findings from a study published in JAMA Network Open that examined the association between ultraprocessed food (UPF) consumption and cardiometabolic risk factors in children.

The study

Researchers conducted the baseline cross-sectional analysis using data from the Childhood Obesity Risk Assessment Longitudinal Study, an ongoing prospective study of children aged 3-6 years in 7 cities in Spain. They assessed the energy-adjusted UPF consumption in grams per day from food frequency questionnaires, which were based on the NOVA Food Classification system, the most widely used UPF classification.

A total of 1426 children (mean age, 5.8 years; 49.0% boys) were included in the current study and categorized into 3 tertiles of energy-adjusted UPF consumption, with the first and lowest group having a baseline mean daily measurement of 192.8 g, increasing to 354.8 g for the second group, and 593.4 g for the third and highest group. The percentage of participants with obesity was 17.5% in the first group, 20.9% in the second group, and 25.0% in the third group.

The findings

Compared with participants in the lowest tertile of energy-adjusted UPF consumption, those in the highest had higher z scores of BMI (β coefficient 0.20, 95% CI 0.05-0.35), WC (β coefficient 0.20, 95% CI 0.05-0.35), and fasting plasma glucose (β coefficient 0.22, 95% CI 0.06-0.37). Children in the third tertile also had lower z scores for HDL-C than those in the lowest tertile (β coefficient –0.19, 95% CI –0.36 to –0.02).

Additionally, one-standard deviation increase in energy-adjusted UPF consumption was associated with higher z scores for BMI (β coefficient 0.11, 95% CI 0.05-0.17), WC (β coefficient 0.09, 95% CI 0.02-0.15), fat mass index (β coefficient 0.11, 95% CI 0.04-1.18), and fasting plasma glucose (β coefficient 0.10, 95% CI 0.03-0.17), and lower HDL-C (β coefficient –0.07, 95% CI –0.15 to –0.00).

Authors' comment

"These findings highlight the importance of promoting unprocessed or minimally processed foods and reducing UPF consumption, particularly starting from early ages."

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