Public Health Nutrition

HOT TOPIC – Overweight and Obesity

Relationship between ultra-processed foods and metabolic syndrome in adolescents from a Brazilian Family Doctor Program

Letícia Ferreira Tavaresa1a3, Sandra Costa Fonsecaa2, Maria Luiza Garcia Rosaa2 and Edna Massae Yokooa2 c1

a1 Collective Health Postgraduate Program, Fluminense Federal University, Niterói, Brazil

a2 Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics of Community Health Institute, Fluminense Federal University, Rua Marquês de Paraná 303/3° andar, Prédio Anexo, Centro, Niterói, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

a3 Department of Social Nutrition, Fluminense Federal University, Niterói, Brazil


Objective To estimate the association between food intake and metabolic syndrome (MetS).

Design Cross-sectional design conducted from July 2006 to December 2007.

Setting Adolescents assisted by the Family Doctor Program (FDP) in Niterói, a metropolitan area in Rio de Janeiro State, Brazil.

Subjects Survey of 210 adolescents. Individuals with three or more of the following components of MetS were classified as having this syndrome: TAG ≥ 110 mg/dl; HDL cholesterol < 50 mg/dl for girls aged 12–19 years and boys aged 12–14 years or <45 mg/dl for boys aged 15–19 years; waist circumference ≥75th percentile; serum glucose >100 mg/dl; and blood pressure ≥90th percentile. A semi-quantitative FFQ was used, and foods were grouped as: unprocessed or minimally processed foods (Group 1), processed culinary and food industry ingredients (Group 2) and ultra-processed foods (Group 3). The associations between food consumption and MetS were adjusted for sociodemographic, behavioural and family history covariates and were estimated using generalized estimation equations with the Poisson regression model.

Results MetS was diagnosed in 6·7 % of the adolescents; the most frequent diagnostic criteria included the reduction of HDL cholesterol (46·7 %), elevated serum glucose (17·1 %) and the elevation of waist circumference (16·7 %). Crude analysis showed higher average daily intakes of energy, carbohydrates and ultra-processed foods among adolescents with MetS. After statistical adjustment, the intake of ultra-processed foods (≥3rd quartile) remained associated with MetS (prevalence ratio = 2·5; P = 0·012).

Conclusions High consumption of ultra-processed foods was associated with the prevalence of MetS in this adolescents group.

(Received July 27 2010)

(Accepted May 27 2011)

(Online publication July 15 2011)


c1 Corresponding author: Email