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6 September 2021
Dietary exposures Obesity

Consumption of ultra-processed foods associated with weight gain and obesity in adults: a multi-national cohort study

A new study by scientists from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), in collaboration with researchers from Imperial College London (United Kingdom) and the University of São Paulo (Brazil), found that higher consumption of ultra-processed foods (UPFs) was associated with significantly higher 5-year body weight gain in a dose–response manner, and with a higher risk of becoming overweight or obese.

UPFs are defined by the NOVA food classification system as products formulated mostly or entirely from food constituents that are never or rarely found in home cooking, and culinary ingredients such as fat, sugar, and salt. Typically, UPFs are mass-produced and packaged. Examples include breads, sugared breakfast cereals, buns, biscuits, sweet or savoury packaged snacks, instant soups and noodles, processed meat, and certain industrially pre-prepared meals.

The scientists examined data for almost 350 000 people in nine European countries participating in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) study. Individuals’ diets were assessed at recruitment by dietary questionnaires, and foods and beverages were classified according to their degree of processing using the NOVA classification system. The researchers estimated associations between consumption of UPFs and body weight change and the relative risk of becoming overweight or obese after 5 years.

Higher consumption of UPFs was positively associated with 5-year weight gain. Compared with the lowest quintile, the highest quintile of UPF consumption was associated with a 15% greater risk of becoming overweight or obese in participants with normal weight at recruitment, and with a 16% greater risk of becoming obese in participants who were overweight at recruitment. These results support public health campaigns aimed at replacing UPFs with less processed alternatives, for obesity prevention and weight management.

Cordova R, Kliemann N, Huybrechts I, Rauber F, Vamos EP, Levy RB, et al.
Consumption of ultra-processed foods associated with weight gain and obesity in adults: a multi-national cohort study
Clin Nutr, Published online 21 August 2021;

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Published in section: IARC News

Publication date: 6 September, 2021, 7:56

Direct link: https://www.iarc.who.int/news-events/consumption-of-ultra-processed-foods-associated-with-weight-gain-and-obesity-in-adults-a-multi-national-cohort-study/

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