Impact of ultra-processed foods on micronutrient content in the Brazilian diet

OBJECTIVE To evaluate the impact of consuming ultra-processed foods on the micronutrient content of the Brazilian population’s diet.METHODS This cross-sectional study was performed using data on individual food consumption from a module of the 2008-2009 Brazilian Household Budget Survey. A representative sample of the Brazilian population aged 10 years or over was assessed (n = 32,898). Food consumption data were collected through two 24-hour food records. Linear regression models were used to assess the association between the nutrient content of the diet and the quintiles of ultra-processed food consumption – crude and adjusted for family incomeper capita.RESULTS Mean daily energy intake per capita was 1,866 kcal, with 69.5% coming from natural or minimally processed foods, 9.0% from processed foods and 21.5% from ultra-processed foods. For sixteen out of the seventeen evaluated micronutrients, their content was lower in the fraction of the diet composed of ultra-processed foods compared with the fraction of the diet composed of natural or minimally processed foods. The content of 10 micronutrients in ultra-processed foods did not reach half the content level observed in the natural or minimally processed foods. The higher consumption of ultra-processed foods was inversely and significantly associated with the content of vitamins B12, vitamin D, vitamin E, niacin, pyridoxine, copper, iron, phosphorus, magnesium, selenium and zinc. The reverse situation was only observed for calcium, thiamin and riboflavin.CONCLUSIONS The findings of this study highlight that reducing the consumption of ultra-processed foods is a natural way to promote healthy eating in Brazil and, therefore, is in line with the recommendations made by the Guia Alimentar para a População Brasileira (Dietary Guidelines for the Brazilian Population) to avoid these foods.