Longitudinal associations between ultra-processed foods and blood lipids in childhood

Br J Nutr. 2020 Aug 14;124(3):341-348. doi: 10.1017/S0007114520001233. Epub 2020 Apr 6.


Emerging evidence suggests that the consumption of ultra-processed foods (UPF) plays a role in the development of chronic diseases, but evidence of their influence in children is limited. Our objective was to study longitudinal trends of UPF intake and determine their impact on blood lipids in young children. The present study was a follow-up of a randomised field trial of children (n 308) from Porto Alegre, Brazil. Dietary intake was collected using two 24-h recalls at 3 and 6 years of age, and consumption of UPF was classified according to the NOVA system, a food classification based on the extent and purpose of industrial food processing. At age 6 years, blood tests were performed to measure lipid profile. Contribution of UPF to total energy intake increased by 10 % during the follow-up period, from 43·4 % at 3 years to 47·7 % at 6 years of age. Linear regression models showed that children in the highest tertile of UPF consumption at age 3 years had higher levels of total cholesterol (TC; β 0·22 mmol/l; 95 % CI 0·04, 0·39) and TAG at age 6 years (β 0·11 mmol/l, 95 % CI 0·01, 0·20) compared with those in the lowest tertile. A positive dose-response was observed for an absolute increment of 10 % of UPF on TC (β 0·07 mmol/l, 95 % CI 0·00, 0·14) and TAG (β 0·04 mmol/l, 95 % CI 0·01, 0·07). Based on our data, consumption of UPF increased significantly over time and was associated with higher blood lipid levels in children from a low-income community. Our findings highlight the need for effective strategies to minimise the consumption of UPF in early life.

Keywords: Children; Lipid profile; Longitudinal studies; Trends; Ultra-processed food.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Brazil
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Diet / adverse effects
  • Diet / statistics & numerical data*
  • Diet Surveys
  • Energy Intake
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Food Handling*
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Lipids / blood*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Poverty / statistics & numerical data
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic


  • Lipids