Ultra-processed food products and obesity in Brazilian households (2008-2009)

PLoS One. 2014 Mar 25;9(3):e92752. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0092752. eCollection 2014.


Background: Production and consumption of industrially processed food and drink products have risen in parallel with the global increase in overweight and obesity and related chronic non-communicable diseases. The objective of this study was to analyze the relationship between household availability of processed and ultra-processed products and the prevalence of excess weight (overweight plus obesity) and obesity in Brazil.

Methods: The study was based on data from the 2008-2009 Household Budget Survey involving a probabilistic sample of 55,970 Brazilian households. The units of study were household aggregates (strata), geographically and socioeconomically homogeneous. Multiple linear regression models were used to assess the relationship between the availability of processed and ultra-processed products and the average of Body Mass Index (BMI) and the percentage of individuals with excess weight and obesity in the strata, controlling for potential confounders (socio-demographic characteristics, percentage of expenditure on eating out of home, and dietary energy other than that provided by processed and ultra-processed products). Predictive values for prevalence of excess weight and obesity were estimated according to quartiles of the household availability of dietary energy from processed and ultra-processed products.

Results: The mean contribution of processed and ultra-processed products to total dietary energy availability ranged from 15.4% (lower quartile) to 39.4% (upper quartile). Adjusted linear regression coefficients indicated that household availability of ultra-processed products was positively associated with both the average BMI and the prevalence of excess weight and obesity, whereas processed products were not associated with these outcomes. In addition, people in the upper quartile of household consumption of ultra-processed products, compared with those in the lower quartile, were 37% more likely to be obese.

Conclusion: Greater household availability of ultra-processed food products in Brazil is positively and independently associated with higher prevalence of excess weight and obesity in all age groups in this cross-sectional study.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Body Mass Index
  • Brazil / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Eating*
  • Energy Intake*
  • Female
  • Food Handling
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nutritive Value*
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Obesity / etiology
  • Obesity / physiopathology
  • Socioeconomic Factors

Grants and funding

This study was funded by Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq - process number 472162/2011-0). DSC received a doctoral scholarship from Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior (CAPES). APBM received a doctoral scholarship and JCM received a postdoctoral fellowship from the Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo (FAPESP). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.