Consumption of Processed Foods Has Increased in Children, Study Shows

We are going to show you the consequences of the increase in the consumption of processed foods in children, which has taken place in recent years.
Consumption of Processed Foods Has Increased in Children, Study Shows

Last update: 23 June, 2022

A recent study has shown that the consumption of processed foods in children has skyrocketed in recent years, as well as all the risks that this phenomenon entails. We’re talking about very low-quality products, which are barely capable of providing essential nutrients for the organism. At the same time, they’re a source of trans fatty acids, simple sugars, and artificial additives. In an ideal scenario, they should appear infrequently in the diet of any individual.

Before starting, it should be noted that a healthy diet is one that is composed primarily of fresh foods. These foods manage to provide vitamins, proteins, and quality fats, which are essential elements for the proper functioning of the body and in order to prevent certain diseases.

So today we’re going to tell you everything you need to know about these eating habits that are so common nowadays. Keep reading!

The dangers of ultra-processed foods in children

The study to which we refer has been published in the prestigious journal JAMA. It analyzed the eating habits of children ages 2 to 17 years living in the United States.

Among the results, it showed how calories from industrial foods account for more than 30% of those ingested throughout the day, which is a truly worrying fact. It’s important to note that most of these calories are “empty”, i.e. they provide energy but not the nutrients needed by the body.

Another important aspect is that the trans fatty acids present in these foods have been shown to increase the risk of metabolic diseases. Not only do they alter the inflammatory state of the internal environment, but they also cause inefficiencies in the functioning of the body and alterations in the DNA of the cells. Therefore, their excessive consumption could cause various diseases.

Corn on the cob, corn kernels in a jar, and corn-based tortilla chips.
The family diet should include more fresh foods (left) and less processed (middle) and ultra-processed foods (right). Although the basic element is the same, the nutrients and other substances that one or the other form of presentation provide are vastly different.

Additives can condition good health

At the same time, it should be noted that ultra-processed foods are made with an excessive amount of artificial additives. These components are used to improve the organoleptic characteristics of the products and to increase their shelf life.

However, they’re not harmless, as they have a negative impact on the intestinal microbiota and alter its density and diversity. This conditions the digestive processes over time.

In addition, there are other additives that could directly increase the risk of developing diseases, as is the case of nitrites. The less these compounds appear in the diet, the better. Therefore, it’s essential to check nutritional labeling to discard those foods that contain them or that are composed of other low-quality substances.

Nutritional education is fundamental

To all these problems, we must add that the habits acquired during the first stages of life tend to be maintained in the future. For this reason, it’s essential to provide correct nutritional education from early childhood. This means that we must emphasize the need to include fresh foods in the diet to ensure the consumption of essential nutrients to maintain a good state of health.

In fact, the high consumption of processed foods is one of the reasons why childhood obesity has skyrocketed in recent decades. Maintaining a state of  excess weight is truly dangerous and is much more than an aesthetic issue. In this situation, the level of inflammation and oxidation of the body increases and some metabolic processes are altered, making the problem even worse.

A pancake and pieces of fruit arranged to look like a flower.
It’s best to focus on prevention by establishing good nutritional habits from birth.

Beware of the consumption of processed foods in children

As you’ve seen, the increase in the consumption of processed foods in children is truly worrying. At the same time, increases in fresh food prices mean that many families are unable to eat a healthy diet for economic reasons. However, there are still some alternatives that can be considered to ensure an optimal nutritional intake without spending too much money.

What’s clear is that instilling good dietary habits from the early stages of life is crucial to achieving a good state of health in the future. And it’s not only necessary to take care of the diet but also to accompany it with the regular practice of physical exercise, especially muscular strength work. Adequate sleep will also make a difference in the medium term as far as the functioning of the organism is concerned. Less and less attention is paid to the latter, but it’s of vital importance.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Wang L, Martínez Steele E, Du M, et al. Tendencias en el consumo de alimentos ultraprocesados ​​entre jóvenes estadounidenses de 2 a 19 años, 1999-2018. JAMA. 2021;326(6):519–530. doi:10.1001/jama.2021.10238.

  • de Souza, R. J., Mente, A., Maroleanu, A., Cozma, A. I., Ha, V., Kishibe, T., Uleryk, E., Budylowski, P., Schünemann, H., Beyene, J., & Anand, S. S. (2015). Intake of saturated and trans unsaturated fatty acids and risk of all cause mortality, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes: systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies. BMJ (Clinical research ed.)351, h3978.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.