Objectives: To compare ultra-processed food consumption across sociodemographic groups and over time (2007-2008, 2009-2010, 2011-2012) in the USA.
Design: Cross-sectional study.
Setting: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2007-2012.
Participants: All individuals aged ≥2 years with at least one 24-hour dietary recall were included (n=23 847).
Main outcome measures: Average dietary contribution of ultra-processed foods (expressed as a percentage of the total caloric value of the diet), obtained after classifying all food items according to extent and purpose of industrial food processing using NOVA classification.
Data analysis: Linear regression was used to evaluate the association between sociodemographic characteristics or NHANES cycles and dietary contribution of ultra-processed foods.
Results: Almost 60% of calories consumed in the period 2007-2012 came from ultra-processed foods. Consumption of ultra-processed foods decreased with age and income level, was higher for non-Hispanic whites or non-Hispanic blacks than for other race/ethnicity groups and lower for people with college than for lower levels of education, all differences being statistically significant. Overall contribution of ultra-processed foods increased significantly between NHANES cycles (nearly 1% point per cycle), the same being observed among males, adolescents and high school education-level individuals.
Conclusions: Ultra-processed food consumption in the USA in the period 2007-2012 was overall high, greater among non-Hispanic whites or non-Hispanic blacks, less educated, younger, lower-income strata and increased across time.
Keywords: United States; diet; nutrition surveys.
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