1School of Public Health, University of São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil.
Background and Objective: The consumption of ultraprocessed foods has been linked to negative health outcomes, and recent studies suggest that there may also be a connection between these highly processed foods and mental health. We aimed to assess whether there is an association between the consumption of ultra-processed foods and common mental disorders among older adults. Methods: This cross-sectional, population-based study used data from the 2015 Health Survey of São Paulo with a focus on nutrition. The study included 539 older adults aged 60 years or older who lived in the urban area of São Paulo. Sociodemographic and health data were collected using a semi-structured questionnaire. Food consumption data was obtained through two nonconsecutive dietary recall questionnaires and classified according to the NOVA classification. Ultra-processed food consumption was evaluated by the percentage of energy from ultra-processed food in relation to the total energy diet. Common mental disorders were assessed using the Self- Reporting Questionnaire-20. Multiple Poisson regression with robust variance was used to estimate prevalence ratios (PR). A hierarchical model was used, and covariates were retained if they were associated with the outcome at p<0.10 or changed the prevalence ratio by 10% or more. Results: The prevalence of common mental disorders was 27.4%, and the mean percentage of ultra-processed food energy intake was 19.2% (95%CI: 18.3-20). Older adults with higher consumption of ultra-processed foods had a significantly higher risk of common mental disorders; compared with the first quartile, participants in the fourth quartile had a 76% higher risk of common mental disorders (PR adjusted: 1.76; 95%CI: 1.10-2.81, p=0.02), and those in the third quartile had an 82% higher risk (PR adjusted: 1.82; 95%CI: 1.19-2.78, p=0.006), after adjusting for sex, age, educational level, physical activity, smoking, diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular diseases, and overweight. Conclusion: We found a significant association between the consumption of ultra-processed foods and a higher risk of common mental disorders in older adults in São Paulo.
Keywords: ultra-processed food, common mental disorders, older adults.