Teens ate less ultra-processed food during pandemic: Study

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The consumption of ultra-processed foods among teenagers in the US declined during the Covid-19 pandemic, for the first time in the last 30 years, finds a new study.

The study, presented at ENDO 2022, stated that the decline in junk food consumption among teenagers took place in the wake of several unprecedented changes brought by the pandemic, including the closure of schools, social restrictions and the shift to working from home.

“We found that teenagers’ consumption of these foods has decreased significantly during Covid-19,” said lead researcher Maria Balhara of Broward College in Davie, Florida.

“Further, the decrease has been sustainable and continued its downward trend even after easing pandemic restrictions,” Balhara added.

Energy drinks, potato chips, sugary sodas and candy are considered ultra-processed and are widely linked to rising obesity and expanding waistlines, she noted.

Previous research has found that ultra-processed food intake now comprises 67 per cent of the adolescent diet.

For the study, published in the Journal of the Endocrine Society, the team involved 452 participants ages 13 to 19.

The study found that after the Covid-19 restrictions were introduced, participants’ average ultra-processed food consumption score dropped by nearly 6 per cent, and it continued to decline as the Covid-19 restrictions later eased.

It is now almost 14 per cent below the level it was before the pandemic began, the study indicated.

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