The intake of this type of food is also linked to the figures in Spain: 18% of children are obese or overweight.
According to the World Health Organization, 39 million children were overweight or obese in 2020 , increasing risks of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and premature death. In our country the figures are also worrying since it reaches 18% of boys and girls. In fact, it is the third country in Europe with the highest rate of childhood obesity.
Experts distinguish two types of main causes in this regard . The first, most obvious and most achievable prevention measures are to stop eating late at night, eat very fast and obviously the intake of ultra-processed foods.
But there is a second cause that, although it can be prevented, is much more complex: it is about acting from the pregnancy . For example, a relationship has been detected between eating fish more than three times a week during pregnancy and childhood obesity.
And something similar happens with the consumption of ultra-processed foods during pregnancy, according to a study published in the ‘British Medical Journal’.
Nutrition experts distinguish three types of food in this area : those that have not been processed, processed and ultra-processed. The latter are those that have undergone some industrial process, that is, they have added colorants, flavorings, additives or “trans” fats, among other substances, to improve their appearance or taste. Examples of these are industrial pastries, sugary soft drinks, sugary cereals, fast food, etc.
Until now it was not clear if there was a link between the consumption of ultra-processed foods during pregnancy and the weight in childhood of their children. To explore this further, a team of Harvard scientists led by Andrew Chan analyzed data from the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS) which includes information from 19,958 children born to 14,553 mothers. Since 1991, NHS volunteers have reported what they ate and drank, using validated food frequency questionnaires.
To reach a conclusion, other potentially influential factors in childhood obesity were also taken into account , such as the weight of the mother, physical activity, smoking, family situation and the education of the father and mother together with the time of activity or sedentary lifestyle of the children. minors.
The results showed that a mother’s consumption of ultra-processed foods was associated with an increased risk of being overweight or obese in her offspring. For example, a 26% increased risk was seen in the ultra-processed food group, regardless of family circumstances in each group.
Although the authors acknowledge that more studies are needed to confirm these findings and understand the factors that could be responsible, they do stress that dietary guidelines should be much clearer and policy in this regard should be unanimous.
“We should not overlook the social determinants of health that could prevent women from reducing their intake of ultra-processed foods,” the authors conclude. “These may include lack of adequate time to prepare food, additional costs of a healthier diet (including limited shelf life that could result in more waste), the fact that most mothers are solely responsible for food in the household, and limited access to healthy food options due to geographic location or price “.