During the COVID-19 pandemic, teenagers in the United States ate less ultra-processed foods than they had in the last 30 years, according to a new study.
As senior researcher Maria Balhara of Broward College in Davie, Florida, points out, the pandemic’s impact on teen junk food intake included school closures and other social limitations, as well as an increase in remote employment opportunities.
“We found that teenagers’ consumption of these foods has decreased significantly during COVID-19,” she added. “Further, the decrease has been sustainable and continued its downward trend even after easing pandemic restrictions.”
Ultra-processed foods include energy drinks, potato chips, sugary sodas, and sweets, which are all connected to increased obesity and expanding waistlines, according to Balhara. According to previous study, ultra-processed foods currently account for 67 percent of adolescent diets.
The new findings come from 452 participants in the Processed Intake Evaluation (PIE) study, who were between the ages of 13 and 19. The study discovered that once the COVID-19 limits were implemented, participants’ average ultra-processed food intake score fell by approximately 6 percent, and this trend remained as the COVID-19 restrictions were eventually eased. It is now nearly 14 percent lower than it was before the pandemic started.
The PIE project is going to enroll a total of 1,800 people, and the researchers are going to analyze the consumption patterns of ultra-processed foods among this broader population.
“The early findings of this study provide an encouraging signal and a window of opportunity for strengthening nutritional and behavioral programs aimed at curbing the obesity epidemic,” Balhara added.
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