Eating ultra-processed foods significantly increases obesity risk among adolescents 

USA – Consuming a diet rich in ultra-processed foods is more likely to make an adolescent overweight or obese, a new study published in the Journal Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has shown. 

According to the Nova Food Classification system, ultra-processed foods are formulations made entirely or mostly from ingredients extracted from foods and manufactured using techniques such as extrusion or preprocessing by frying. 

Ultra-processed foods may also derive from food constituents or be synthesized from food substrates or organic sources. 

Examples of ultra-processed foods include salty or sweet packaged snacks, breakfast cereals and bars, ready-to-eat (RTE) pizza, burgers and hot dogs, candy, pastries, and soft drinks, among others. 

According to the study, adolescents as young as 12 who eat a diet of mostly ultra-processed foods are 45% more likely to be obese compared to those with the lowest consumption (18.5% of total diet). 

Those who consumed the most ultra-processed food were also 52% more likely to have abdominal obesity and 63% more likely to have visceral obesity, marked by excess fat tissue surrounding the abdominal organs. 

Excess visceral fat is linked with serious health conditions such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension and other types of cardiovascular disease (CVD). 


The researchers noted that A 10% increase in consumption of ultra-processed foods in the diet was associated with an increased risk of both abdominal overweight/obesity and visceral overweight/obesity. 

Obesity in children and adolescents is a “serious problem,” according to the US Center and Disease Control (CDC), which reports about 14.4 million children and adolescents are obese.  

According to the organization, the disease plagues 21.2% of young people aged 12 to 19 years, the organization reports. 

The study comes at a time when ultra-processed foods are dominating family dinner today and comprise a large—and growing—portion of children’s diets.  

In 2018, 67% of the calories consumed by children and adolescents came from ultra-processed foods—up from 61% in 1999.  

Despite their popularity, studies have long pointed to widespread availability of high-caloric, less-expensive food as a key contributor to rising obesity rates. 

Liked this article? Subscribe to Food Business Africa News, our regular email newsletters with the latest news insights from Africa and the World’s food and agro industry. SUBSCRIBE HERE

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.