1Universidad Católica Del Maule, Curico, Chile, 2Universidade Federal de Pelotas, Pelotas, Brasil, 3Universidad de Cuenca, Cuenca, Ecuador, 4Universidad Católica del Uruguay, Montevideo, Uruguay, 5Pontificia Universidad Católica, Santiago, Chile.
Introduction: There is growing consensus globally that the consumption of ultra-processed food (UPF) can negatively affect the nutritional status of children, with far-reaching consequences into adulthood. Objective: The present study aims to evaluate potential associations between the consumption of UPF and the nutritional status in a sample of Uruguayan and Brazilian preschoolers belonging to two studies: the ENDIS Study and the 2015 Pelotas Birth Cohort. Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional analysis. The main outcome was obesity and was defined according to the WHO standards as BMI for age and sex ≥ +3 z-scores. The score of UPF consumption was the main exposure. Each positive answer of habitual intake was added up to create a UPF score ranging from zero to six or more UPF (0; 1; 2; 3; 4; 5; 6 or more). Crude and adjusted logistic regressions were performed to estimate odds ratios (OR), and respective 95% confidence intervals (95%CI), for the associations between UPF consumption and nutritional status in preschoolers. Results: The final sample consisted of 8,687 preschool children, 50.8% belonging to the Uruguayan study. Nearly 5% of the sample of young children were obese. We found no relationship between the number of UPFs eaten by children with obesity, however, children without obesity consume less UPF than children with obesity (3.4 and 3.9 respectively). We didn’t observe a relationship between the score of UPF consumption and obesity in the whole population, the OR was 1.04 (95%CI, 1.00–1.09). Adjustments resulted in modest attenuation of the relationship and a lack of statistical significance. Meanwhile, when we analyzed the score of UPF consumption, obesity and age, we found that the score of UPF was directly associated with childhood obesity in children under 48 months. Conclusion: Results suggest that higher consumption of UPFs is associated with obesity in Uruguayan and Brazilian children younger than 4 years.
Keywords: childhood obesity; eating behavior; ultra-processed foods, body mass index.