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Consumption of ultra-processed foods and associated sociodemographic factors in the USA between 2007 and 2012: evidence from a nationally representative cross-sectional study

10 Mar 2018


To compare ultra-processed food consumption across sociodemographic groups and over time (2007–2008, 2009–2010, 2011–2012) in the USA.


Cross-sectional study.


National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2007–2012.


All individuals aged ≥2 years with at least one 24-hour dietary recall were included (n=23 847).

Main outcome measures

Average dietary contribution of ultra-processed foods (expressed as a percentage of the total caloric value of the diet), obtained after classifying all food items according to extent and purpose of industrial food processing using NOVA classification.

Data analysis

Linear regression was used to evaluate the association between sociodemographic characteristics or NHANES cycles and dietary contribution of ultra-processed foods.


Almost 60% of calories consumed in the period 2007–2012 came from ultra-processed foods. Consumption of ultra-processed foods decreased with age and income level, was higher for non-Hispanic whites or non-Hispanic blacks than for other race/ethnicity groups and lower for people with college than for lower levels of education, all differences being statistically significant. Overall contribution of ultra-processed foods increased significantly between NHANES cycles (nearly 1% point per cycle), the same being observed among males, adolescents and high school education-level individuals.


Ultra-processed food consumption in the USA in the period 2007–2012 was overall high, greater among non-Hispanic whites or non-Hispanic blacks, less educated, younger, lower-income strata and increased across time.

Click here to view the full article which appeared in BMJ Open

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