B4342 - Ultra-processed food consumption and risk of overweight and obesity in children - 05/06/2023

B number: 
Principal applicant name: 
Kiara Chang | Imperial College London (United Kingdom)
Ms Anna Teo, Dr Eszter Vamos
Title of project: 
Ultra-processed food consumption and risk of overweight and obesity in children
Proposal summary: 

Globally, increasing prevalence of obesity has been observed, not just amongst adults but also in children. Studies have suggested that early development of obesity in childhood is associated with obesity in adulthood and development of chronic illnesses. It is thus important that factors associated with the rising prevalence of obesity amongst children are investigated, so that early interventions can be put in place to address the issue. While the causes contributing to obesity are complex, healthy eating is one of the most important and modifiable risk factors to address this issue. Traditionally, studies have been conducted to understand specific food group or nutrient and the association with obesity. However, in recent decades, food systems have undergone major changes that have led to a rising availability of ultra-processed foods globally. Under the NOVA food processing classification, ultra-processed foods are defined as industrial products made with many ingredients not accessible in domestic kitchen and typically contain a myriad of artificial additives. While there are growing evidence that the consumption of ultra-processed foods are linked to obesity in adults, this has not been examined in children except for few cohort studies with short follow up time. Therefore, this project aims to investigate the link between childhood consumption of ultra-processed foods and the development of overweight and obesity from childhood to early adulthood in the ALSPAC birth cohort. The results of this study will address an important gap in literature and also provide valuable insights to help shape future policies in tackling childhood obesity.

Impact of research: 
The link between higher consumption of ultra-processed foods and development of obesity in adults are now well-understood, but there is only one short term cohort study to date that examined the impact of ultra-processed food consumption on children’s development of overweight and obesity. Therefore, our study is timely to address this important gap in research and will provide the first ever longer term results on the prospective association between childhood consumption of ultra-processed foods and risk of overweight and obesity from childhood to early adulthood during a crucial period of growth and development. This could in turn bring about positive downstream effects in providing policy recommendations on lowering the degree of food processing in diets to tackle the rising issue of childhood obesity.
Date proposal received: 
Friday, 26 May, 2023
Date proposal approved: 
Monday, 5 June, 2023
Epidemiology, Obesity, Statistical methods, BMI, Cohort studies - attrition, bias, participant engagement, ethics, Nutrition - breast feeding, diet