Ultraprocessed Foods May Lead to Broader Consumption for Adolescents

Certain ultraprocessed food (UPF) products may act as gateway foods and increase subsequent consumption of other UPFs.

HealthDay News — Certain ultraprocessed food (UPF) products may act as gateway foods and increase subsequent consumption of other UPFs, according to a study presented at the American Heart Association Hypertension 2022 Scientific Sessions, held from Sept. 7 to 10 in San Diego.

Maria Balhara, a student at Broward College in Davie, Florida, calculated Processed Intake Evaluation (PIE) scores for 315 adolescent participants (ages 13 to 19 years) based on averaged consumption of 12 UPF products. PIE scores were compared before COVID-19 (in 2019) and after COVID-19 restrictions were eased (in 2022).

The researchers found that for 135 participants, UPF consumption increased, and for 180, consumption decreased during COVID-19. For both groups, a stepwise regression was employed to identify significant factors for change in UPF intake. Increased intake of candy, store pastries, or frozen desserts was associated with increased UPF intake across all other UPFs, while decreased UPF intake of biscuits, white bread, or processed meat was associated with decreased overall UPF intake across all other UPFs.

“For teenagers whose consumption of ultraprocessed foods has not yet been established, certain gateway foods such as candy, store-bought pastries, and frozen desserts should be avoided, since increased consumption of these foods appears to lead to increased consumption of other processed foods,” Balhara said in a statement. “The good news is that even small changes, such as reducing how often you eat a few gateway foods, may reduce overall consumption of unhealthy foods and have a big impact on your overall health.”

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