How do ultra-processed foods affect children’s health?

18/06/2022, 00:20, Photo: Reproduction.

A new study found that three- to five-year-olds who ate more ultra-processed foods had worse motor skills than those who ate less of these foods. The results also showed lower cardiovascular fitness in 12- to 15-year-olds who ate more ultra-processed foods. (read more below)

According to the researchers, healthy eating behaviors are established during childhood, so it’s important to educate families about ways to reduce consumption of ultra-processed foods. (read more below)

What are ultra-processed?

Ultra-processed foods are ready-to-eat or ready-to-eat foods that are high in sugar, sodium, and low in fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals. They usually contain added sugars, hydrogenated oils and flavor enhancers.

Some examples are packaged snacks and candies, sweet cereals, cookies, snacks and sausages. When consumed in excess, these foods have been linked to various health problems such as diabetes, obesity, and other serious medical conditions such as certain types of cancer.

In the case of this study, the products were classified as ultra-processed: packaged snacks, cereals, candy, soft drinks, sweetened juices, yogurt, canned soups and ready meals such as pizza, hot dogs, hamburgers and chicken nuggets.

More calories and less health

To further analyze the association between physical fitness and ultra-processed foods during different stages of childhood, the authors used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). A total of 1,500 American children between the ages of three and 15 took part in the study.

To study children aged five and under, the researchers used locomotor development as a measure of physical fitness. Findings showed that those with the lowest scores consumed 273 more calories per day from ultra-processed foods than the little ones with the highest scores.

Cardiovascular conditioning was used as a measure of physical fitness in older children. The study found that teens and tweens in good cardiovascular fitness consumed 226 fewer calories daily from ultra-processed foods than those without a healthy cardiovascular fitness.

The team further explained that while ultra-processed foods are easier and more convenient, the study’s findings demonstrate the importance of preparing healthy snacks and meals. (read more below)

According to them, it is a way of saving in old age, as making positive decisions about health in childhood can influence spending on care in adult and older age.

Source: dr. Jairo Bouer

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