WEDNESDAY, March 15, 2023 (HealthDay News) — Americans are eating more food additives, according to a new study that found that about 60% of the food they buy contains coloring or flavoring agents, preservatives and sweeteners.
That is 10% more than in 2001.
“Our research clearly shows that the proportion of ultra-processed foods with additives in Americans’ shopping carts increased significantly between 2001 and 2019,” said study leader Elizabeth Dunford, a nutrition researcher at the Gillings Global School of Public Health. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC). “We see this trend across all feed and additive categories.”
This is important, according to the study, recently published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dieteticsbecause the health consequences of food additives are not fully understood.
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Assessing exposure to these additives is key to understanding the role they play in weight gain, negative changes in the gut microbiome and other adverse health outcomes associated with ultra-processed foods, according to the researchers.
According to the research, more than half of the overall packaged food and beverages purchased by American households contained three or more additives in 2019.
A 22% higher percentage of baby food purchases were ultra-processed and contained additives.
“These findings concern us, given the growing evidence linking high consumption of processed foods with adverse health outcomes,” Dunford said in a journal news release.
One positive trend identified in the study is a decrease in the use of added flavors in carbonated soft drinks.
Consumers buy more than 400,000 different packaged foods and beverages each year at grocery stores. This means they are consuming more sugar, sodium, and saturated fat.
“With manufacturers producing foods and beverages with increasing amounts of additives, it’s more important than ever to understand what’s in the food Americans buy and eat,” said lead researcher Barry Popkin, a UNC professor of nutrition. .
“US consumers are demanding a much higher level of transparency from brands and retailers than in years past,” he said in the statement. “We hope the findings from this study will be used to inform policymakers about where Americans, especially infants, are being exposed to additives and how the packaged food supply is changing.”
The researchers used Nielsen consumer panel data between 2001 and 2019 to compare product purchases over time. They said previous studies had been difficult due to a lack of publicly available databases with names and amounts of major additives in American foods.
“The findings from this study could be used to inform policymakers about where American consumers are increasingly getting their additives and how the packaged food supply is changing,” Dunford said. “The results may also lay the foundation for future work in this area and provide guidance for future researchers.
If nothing else, Dunford said he hopes the work will result in a deeper look at the types and amounts of ingredients that go into making baby food products.
Experts from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City wrote an editorial accompanying the findings.
“By providing data on exposure to food additives in ultra-processed foods found in supermarket-bought foods over time, Dr. Dunford’s team is leading the way with much-needed research. Their novel method allowed them to document changes in exposure to food additives over time and by category of food and additive,” co-author Mona Calvo, from Icahn’s division of nephrology, said in the statement.
“Most importantly, the authors’ unique approach allowed estimation of exposure in vulnerable and understudied populations of infants and children,” said co-author Dr. Jaime Uribarri, professor of nephrology.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has more about food additives and children’s health.
FOUNTAIN: Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dieteticspress release, March 13, 2023