Ultra-processed food consumption and obesity in the UK

  • Rauber F & al.
  • Eur J Nutr
  • 18 Oct 2020

  • curated by Sarfaroj Khan
  • UK Clinical Digest
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Takeaway

  • Diets rich in ultra-processed foods were associated with a 79% and 30% significant increase in the risk of obesity and abdominal obesity, respectively.
  • The risk of gain in body mass index (BMI), waist circumference (WC) and percentage of body fat (%BF) of ≥5% was greater with higher consumption of ultra-processed foods.

Why this matters

  • Policymakers should consider actions that encourage consumption of fresh or minimally processed foods and lower consumption of ultra-processed foods.

Study design

  • This prospective study included 22,659 participants (age, 40-69 years) from the UK Biobank (2006-2019); median follow-up period: 5 years.
  • The consumption of ultra-processed foods (identified using the NOVA classification) was estimated based on the first 24-hour dietary recall of each participant.
  • Repeated measures of adiposity—BMI, WC and %BF—were evaluated.
  • Funding: Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo.

Key results

  • A total of 947 cases of overall obesity (BMI, ≥30 kg/m2) and 1900 cases of abdominal obesity (men: WC, ≥102 cm, women: WC, ≥88 cm) were reported.
  • Participants in the highest quartile of ultra-processed food consumption vs those in the lowest quartile of consumption had a significantly increased risk of developing overall obesity (adjusted HR [aHR], 1.79; 95% CI, 1.06-3.03) and abdominal obesity (aHR, 1.30; 95% CI, 1.14-1.48).
  • Participants in the highest quartile of ultra-processed food consumption were at a greater risk of having ≥5% increase in:
    • BMI (aHR, 1.31; 95% CI, 1.20-1.43);
    • WC (aHR, 1.35; 95% CI, 1.25-1.45); and
    • %BF (aHR, 1.14; 95% CI, 1.03-1.25).

Limitations

  • Study included participants who were older and less likely to be obese and thus may have underestimated the association.
  • High number of participants were lost to follow-up.