Ultra-processed food consumption drives excessive free sugar intake among all age groups in Australia

Abstract

Objective

To analyze the contribution of ultra-processed foods to the intake of free sugars among different age groups in Australia.

Methods

Dietary intakes of 12,153 participants from the National Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey (2011–12) aged 2+ years were evaluated. Food items collected through two 24-h recalls were classified according to the NOVA system. The contribution of each NOVA food group and their subgroups to total energy intake was determined by age group. Mean free sugar content in diet fractions made up exclusively of ultra-processed foods, or of processed foods, or of a combination of un/minimally processed foods and culinary ingredients (which includes table sugar and honey) were compared. Across quintiles of the energy contribution of ultra-processed foods, differences in the intake of free sugars, as well as in the prevalence of excessive free sugar intake (≥ 10% of total energy) were examined.

Results

Ultra-processed foods had the highest energy contribution among children, adolescents and adults in Australia, with older children and adolescents the highest consumers (53.1% and 54.3% of total energy, respectively). The diet fraction restricted to ultra-processed items contained significantly more free sugars than the two other diet fractions. Among all age groups, a positive and statistically significant linear association was found between quintiles of ultra-processed food consumption and both the average intake of free sugars and the prevalence of excessive free sugar intake.

Conclusion

Ultra-processed food consumption drives excessive free sugar intake among all age groups in Australia.

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Correspondence to Carlos Augusto Monteiro.

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Machado, P.P., Steele, E.M., Louzada, M.L.C. et al. Ultra-processed food consumption drives excessive free sugar intake among all age groups in Australia. Eur J Nutr 59, 2783–2792 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00394-019-02125-y

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Keywords

  • Food processing
  • Ultra-processed food
  • Free sugar
  • Diet quality
  • Australia