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Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2019 Feb;29(2):177-184. doi: 10.1016/j.numecd.2018.11.003. Epub 2018 Nov 22.

Ultra-processed food consumption and its effects on anthropometric and glucose profile: A longitudinal study during childhood.

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Graduate Program in Health Sciences, Universidade Federal de Ciências da Saúde de Porto Alegre, RS, Brazil. Electronic address:
Center for Epidemiological Research in Nutrition and Health, University of Sao Paulo, SP, Brazil.
Graduate Program in Health Sciences, Universidade Federal de Ciências da Saúde de Porto Alegre, RS, Brazil.
School of Health, Universidade do Vale do Rio dos Sinos, Sao Leopoldo, RS, Brazil.
Graduate Program in Paediatrics, Attention to Children and Adolescent Health, Brazil.



Obesity and insulin resistance development are related to known risk factors (such as diet) that begin in childhood. Among dietary factors, the consumption of ultra-processed foods has received attention. The present study investigated the association between ultra-processed foods consumption at preschool age and changes in anthropometric measurements from preschool to school age and glucose profile at school age.


The present study was a follow-up of a randomized controlled trial, conducted with 307 children of low socioeconomic status from São Leopoldo, Brazil. At ages 4 and 8 years, children's anthropometric assessments were collected from preschool to school age including body-mass index (BMI) for-age, waist circumference (WC), waist-to-height ratio (WHtR) and skinfold. At the age 8 years, blood tests were performed to measure glucose profile. Dietary data were collected through 24-h recalls and the children's ultra-processed food intake was assessed. Linear regression analysis was used to assess the relationship between ultra-processed food consumption and the outcomes. The percentage of daily energy provided by ultra-processed foods was 41.8 ± 8.7 (753.8 ± 191.0 kcal) at preschool age and 47.8 ± 8.9 (753.8 ± 191.0 kcal) at school age, on average. The adjusted linear regression analyses showed that ultra-processed food consumption at preschool age was a predictor of an increase in delta WC from preschool to school age (β = 0.07; 95%CI 0.01-0.14; P = 0.030), but not for glucose metabolism.


Our data suggest that early ultra-processed food consumption played a role in increasing abdominal obesity in children. These results reinforce the importance of effective strategies to prevent the excessive consumption of ultra-processed foods, especially in early ages.


Child nutrition; Insulin resistance; Longitudinal studies; Ultra-processed foods; Waist circumference

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