Objectives: Ultra-processed foods (UPF) consumption has increased over the last decades and is raising concerns about potential adverse health effects. Our objective was to assess the association between UPF consumption and four functional gastrointestinal disorders (FGIDs): irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), functional constipation (FC), functional diarrhea (FDh), and functional dyspepsia (FDy), in a large sample of French adults.
Methods: We analyzed dietary data of 33,343 participants from the web-based NutriNet-Santé cohort, who completed at least three 24 h food records, prior to a Rome III self-administered questionnaire. Proportion (in weight) of UPF in the diet (UPFp) was computed for each subject. The association between UPFp quartiles and FGIDs was estimated by multivariable logistic regression.
Results: Participants included in the analysis were mainly women (76.4%), and the mean age was 50.4 (SD = 14.0) years. UPF accounted for 16.0% of food consumed in weight, corresponding to 33.0% of total energy intake. UPF consumption was associated with younger age, living alone, lower incomes, higher BMI, and lower physical activity level (all p < 0.0001). A total of 3516 participants reported IBS (10.5%), 1785 FC (5.4%), 1303 FDy (3.9%), and 396 FDh (1.1%). After adjusting for confounding factors, an increase in UPFp was associated with a higher risk of IBS (aOR Q4 vs. Q1 [95% CI]: 1.25 [1.12-1.39], p-trend < 0.0001).
Conclusions: This study suggests an association between UPF and IBS. Further longitudinal studies are needed to confirm those results and understand the relative impact of the nutritional composition and specific characteristics of UPF in this relationship.