High Consumption of Ultra-Processed Food is Associated with Incident Dyslipidemia: A Prospective Study of Older Adults

J Nutr. 2021 Aug 7;151(8):2390-2398. doi: 10.1093/jn/nxab118.


Background: Ultra-processed food (UPF) consumption has been associated with higher cardiovascular disease (CVD) and mortality risks.

Objectives: The aim of this study was to assess the relationship between UPF consumption and incident dyslipidemia in older adults, where evidence is limited.

Methods: We studied a prospective cohort of 1082 community-dwelling adults in Spain, older than 60 (mean age, 68 ± 6 years old). Participants (52% were women) were recruited between 2008-10 and followed up to 2015. At baseline, food intake data were collected using a validated computerized face-to-face dietary history. UPFs were identified according to the nature and extent of their industrial processing (NOVA classification). Triglycerides, HDL cholesterol, and LDL cholesterol were measured in fasting plasma samples collected at baseline and at follow-up. Statistical analyses were performed with logistic regression adjusted for the main potential confounders.

Results: Among those free of corresponding dyslipidemia at baseline, and after a follow-up of between 5 to 7 years, 60 (out of 895) developed incident hypertriglyceridemia (≥150 mg/dL), 112 (out of 878) had low HDL cholesterol (<40 in men/<50 mg/dL in women), and 54 (out of 472) had high LDL cholesterol (>129 mg/dL). The mean percentage of UPF consumption was 19% ± 11% of total energy intake. Those in the highest versus the lowest tertile of energy intake from UPFs had more than twice the odds of incident hypertriglyceridemia (OR, 2.66; 95% CI: 1.20-5.90; P-trend, 0.011) or low HDL cholesterol (OR, 2.23; 95% CI: 1.22-4.05; P-trend, 0.012). UPF consumption was not associated with high LDL cholesterol plasma concentrations.

Conclusions: Although UPF consumption in Spain was low among older adults, high consumption of UPFs was clearly associated with incident dyslipidemia. The increase in CVD risk recently found to be associated with UPF consumption might be mediated by these atherogenic lipid abnormalities.

Keywords: atherogenic lipid abnormalities; dyslipidemia prevention; nutritional epidemiology; prospective cohort study; ultra-processed food.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Diet*
  • Dyslipidemias* / epidemiology
  • Dyslipidemias* / etiology
  • Fast Foods
  • Female
  • Food Handling
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies