Ultra-processed food intake and eating disorders: Cross-sectional associations among French adults

J Behav Addict. 2022 Apr 4;11(2):588-599. doi: 10.1556/2006.2022.00009. Online ahead of print.


Background and aims: Data regarding the association between ultra-processed food (UPF) consumption and eating disorders (ED) are scarce. Our aim was to investigate whether UPF intake was associated with different ED types in a large population-based study.

Methods: 43,993 participants (mean age = 51.0 years; 76.1% women) of the French NutriNet-Santé web-cohort who were screened for ED in 2014 via the Sick-Control-One stone-Fat-Food (SCOFF) questionnaire, were included in the analysis. The clinical algorithm Expali TM tool was used to identify four ED types: restrictive, bulimic, binge eating, and other (not otherwise specified). Mean dietary intake was evaluated from at least 2 self-administered 24-h dietary records (2013-2015); categorization of food as ultra-processed or not relied on the NOVA classification. The associations between UPF intake (as percent and reflecting mean daily UPF quantity (g/d) within the dietary intake, %UPF) and ED types were evaluated using polytomous logistic regression models.

Results: 5,967 participants (13.6%) were categorized as likely ED (restrictive n = 444; bulimic n = 1,575; binge eating n = 3,124; other ED n = 824). The fully-adjusted analyses revealed a positive association between UPF intake and bulimic, binge eating, and other ED: ED risk (odds ratio, OR) for an absolute 10-percentage point incremental increase in %UPF intake were 1.08 (1.01-1.14; P = 0.02), 1.21 (1.16-1.26; P < 0.0001), and 1.11 (1.02-1.20; P = 0.02), respectively. No significant association was detected for restrictive ED.

Discussion and conclusion: This study revealed an association of UPF intake with different ED types among French adults. Future research is needed to elucidate the direction of the observed associations.

Keywords: anorexia nervosa; binge eating disorder; bulimia nervosa; eating disorders; epidemiological study; ultra-processed food.