According to a new study https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.2021.10238 that examined the diet of 33.795 children and teens in the US no statistically significant differences by parental education and family income were found regarding the amount of calories consumed from highly processed foods. This is decisive! It means that children across the board are eating foods that may have negative effects on their development, overall health and well-being.
“The lack of disparities based on parental education and family income indicates that ultraprocessed foods are pervasive in children’s diets,” says Fang Fang Zhang, nutrition epidemiologist at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science & Policy at Tufts University and corresponding author of the study. “This finding supports the need for researchers to track trends in food consumption more fully, taking into account consumption of ultraprocessed foods.” https://www.futurity.org/ultraprocessed-foods-kids-2616352-2/
What else did the study find?
It this fact is well-known around the world https://globalfoodresearchprogram.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/UPF_ultra-processed_food_fact_sheet.pdfhttps://www.bpni.org/ultra-processed-foods/ that ultraprocessed foods are detrimental to overall health and may contribute to “civilisation diseases” like Type-II Diabetes, heart diseases and some cancers. Nevertheless the overall findings of the study show that instead of decreasing the intake of calories from UPFs has even spiked since the beginning of the new millennium (the study took into account data reaching from 1999 to 2018).
The highest increase has been from pizza, burgers and sweet non-foods like donuts and ice cream, the former increasing their share five-fold, the latter increasing by more than 25%.
And while family income and parents education were not indicative of the diet of youngsters, race was: the highest increase was in non-hispanic Blacks, followed by Mexican Americans and non-hispanic Whites.
The good news from this particular study was that the intake of calories from sugary beverages has decreased by 51%, from 10.8% to 5.3%. While this is arguably still way too much intake from calories that are basically void of any nutritional value it shows, that a concerted effort in education has good probability of success. Using the same strategy to educate children and their parents about the dangers of UPFs high in sugar and fat will pay off in public health gains in the decades to come.