*The following is excerpted from an online article posted on MedicalXpress.
The calories that children and adolescents consumed from ultra-processed foods jumped from 61% to 67% of total caloric intake from 1999 to 2018, according to a new study from researchers at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science & Policy at Tufts University. Published in JAMA, the study analyzed dietary intake from 33,795 children and adolescents nationwide.
“Some whole-grain breads and dairy foods are ultra-processed, and they’re healthier than other ultra-processed foods. Processing can keep food fresher longer, allows for food fortification and enrichment, and enhances consumer convenience,” said senior and corresponding author Fang Fang Zhang, nutrition epidemiologist at the Friedman School. “But many ultra-processed foods are less healthy, with more sugar and salt, and less fiber, than unprocessed and minimally processed foods, and the increase in their consumption by children and teenagers is concerning.”
The largest spike in calories came from such ready-to-eat or ready-to-heat dishes as takeout and frozen pizza and burgers: from 2.2% to 11.2% of calories. The second-largest spike in calories came from packaged sweet snacks and desserts, the consumption of which grew from 10.6% to 12.9%.
Over the study period, calories from often healthier unprocessed or minimally processed foods decreased from 28.8% to 23.5%. The remaining percentage of calories came from moderately processed foods such as cheese and canned fruits and vegetables, and consumer-added flavor enhancers such as sugar, honey, maple syrup, and butter.
There was good news: Calories from sugar-sweetened beverages dropped from 10.8% to 5.3% of overall calories, a 51% drop.