Objective: Concerns have been raised about the potential health impact of ultra-processed foods (UPF) in the diet. Our objective was to investigate the contribution of UPF in the diet in a large French population and its association with sociodemographic factors and dietary patterns.
Design: Cross-sectional analysis of dietary data from 74 470 participants in the web-based NutriNet-Santé cohort. UPF were identified in repeated 24 h records and the proportion (in weight) of UPF in the total diet (UPFp) was computed for each participant. Associations of sociodemographic characteristics and UPFp in quartiles were assessed using multivariate multinomial logistic regression. Food group consumption and nutrient intakes across quartiles of UPFp were estimated using linear regression adjusted for sociodemographic factors and energy intake.
Results: UPF contributed 18·4 % of the foods consumed in weight and 35·9 % of total energy intake. Higher UPFp consumption was independently associated with male gender, younger age, lower education, smoking, and overweight and obesity (all P<0·0001). Participants in the highest UPFp quartile consumed lower amounts of fruit and vegetables (difference between quartile 4 and quartile 1 of UPFp, Δ=-180·3 g/d) and higher amounts of sweet products (Δ=68·5 g/d) and soft drinks (Δ=98·6 g/d; all P<0·0001). They had higher intakes of energy (Δ=610 kJ/d (145·7 kcal/d)) and added sugar (Δ=17·1 g/d), and lower intakes of fibre (Δ=-4·04 g/d), β-carotene (Δ=-1019·6 μg/d) and Ca (Δ=-87·8 mg/d; all P<0·0001).
Conclusions: UPF represent an important part of the diet in adults from the French general population and are associated with unbalanced nutritional intakes.
Keywords: Dietary behaviour; Epidemiology; Ultra-processed foods.