Ultra-processed food consumption and its effects on anthropometric and glucose profile: A longitudinal study during childhood

Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2019 Feb;29(2):177-184. doi: 10.1016/j.numecd.2018.11.003. Epub 2018 Nov 22.


Background and aims: Obesity and insulin resistance development are related to known risk factors (such as diet) that begin in childhood. Among dietary factors, the consumption of ultra-processed foods has received attention. The present study investigated the association between ultra-processed foods consumption at preschool age and changes in anthropometric measurements from preschool to school age and glucose profile at school age.

Methods and results: The present study was a follow-up of a randomized controlled trial, conducted with 307 children of low socioeconomic status from São Leopoldo, Brazil. At ages 4 and 8 years, children's anthropometric assessments were collected from preschool to school age including body-mass index (BMI) for-age, waist circumference (WC), waist-to-height ratio (WHtR) and skinfold. At the age 8 years, blood tests were performed to measure glucose profile. Dietary data were collected through 24-h recalls and the children's ultra-processed food intake was assessed. Linear regression analysis was used to assess the relationship between ultra-processed food consumption and the outcomes. The percentage of daily energy provided by ultra-processed foods was 41.8 ± 8.7 (753.8 ± 191.0 kcal) at preschool age and 47.8 ± 8.9 (753.8 ± 191.0 kcal) at school age, on average. The adjusted linear regression analyses showed that ultra-processed food consumption at preschool age was a predictor of an increase in delta WC from preschool to school age (β = 0.07; 95%CI 0.01-0.14; P = 0.030), but not for glucose metabolism.

Conclusion: Our data suggest that early ultra-processed food consumption played a role in increasing abdominal obesity in children. These results reinforce the importance of effective strategies to prevent the excessive consumption of ultra-processed foods, especially in early ages.

Keywords: Child nutrition; Insulin resistance; Longitudinal studies; Ultra-processed foods; Waist circumference.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Anthropometry*
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism*
  • Brazil
  • Child
  • Child Behavior
  • Child Development
  • Child, Preschool
  • Energy Intake
  • Fast Foods / adverse effects*
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Female
  • Food Handling*
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Nutritive Value
  • Obesity, Abdominal / blood
  • Obesity, Abdominal / diagnosis
  • Obesity, Abdominal / epidemiology*
  • Obesity, Abdominal / physiopathology
  • Pediatric Obesity / blood
  • Pediatric Obesity / diagnosis
  • Pediatric Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Pediatric Obesity / physiopathology
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Risk Factors
  • Social Class


  • Biomarkers
  • Blood Glucose