‘Ultra-processed’ foods make up more than half of all calories in US diet, BMJ

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 9th March 2016

Hot Dog“Ultra-processed” food make up more than half of all calories consumed by Americans daily says a new study.


Published in Volume 3, Issue Six of the BMJ Open journal, researchers from the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil also found that ultra-processed food consumed by Americans contributed to 90 per cent of all added sugar intake.


Only those Americans whose ultra-processed food consumption was within the lowest 20 per cent had an average daily added sugar intake that fell below the maximum recommended limit.


How the study worked


For the purposes of the study ultra-processed foods were described as foods made up of several ingredients not usually used in home cooking like as flavourings, emulsifiers, and other additives. Ultra-processed foods are usually found in food categories like soft drinks, packaged snacks, confectionary, packaged baked goods, chicken nuggets and instant noodles.


To assess the contribution of ultra-processed foods to the intake of added sugars in the US diet, the researchers drew on dietary data involving more than 9000 people from the 2009-10 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), an ongoing nationally representative cross sectional survey of US civilians.


The researchers looked at the average dietary content of added sugars and the proportion of people who consumed more than 10 per cent of their total energy intake, the maximum recommended limit from this source.


Ultra-processed foods made up over half of total calorie intake, just under 60 per cent, and contributed almost 90 per cent of energy intake from added sugars.


One in every five calories added sugar


Added sugars represented one in every five calories in the average ultra-processed food product, far higher than the calorie content of added sugars in processed foods and in unprocessed or minimally processed foods and processed culinary ingredients, including table sugar, combined.


The researchers concluded that cutting back on the consumption of ultra-processed foods could be an effective way of curbing excessive added sugar intake in the US.