Children ages 3 to 5 who consumed more ultra-processed foods had poorer locomotor skills than children who consumed less of these foods. It also showed lower cardiovascular fitness in 12- to 15-year-olds who consumed more ultra-processed foods.
Healthy dietary and exercise behaviors are established at a very young age. So the findings point to the need to educate families about cost-effective ways to reduce ultra-processed food intake to help decrease the risk for cardiovascular health problems in adulthood. This survey used interviews and fitness tests to collect data on physical activity, fitness levels and food intake for more than 1,500 children aged 3 to 15. Ultra-processed foods were identified which categorizes food and beverage items according to the level of food processing.
The analysis revealed that children with the lowest locomotor development scores consumed 273 calories more per day of ultra-processed foods than children with the highest locomotor development scores. The study also showed that teens and preteens with good cardiovascular fitness consumed 226 fewer calories daily from ultra-processed foods than those who did not have healthy cardiovascular fitness.
Hence, a better understanding of how and when these foods are consumed could help inform future interventions designed to encourage healthy eating.