Geographical and Temporal Variability of Ultra-Processed Food Consumption in the Spanish Population: Findings from the DRECE Study.
Abstract: The consumption of ultra-processed foods (UPFs) has increased in recent decades, worldwide. Evidence on the negative impacts of food processing on health outcomes has also been steadily increasing. The aim of this study is to describe changes in consumption patterns of ultra-processed foods in the Spanish population over time and their geographical variability. Data from four representative cohorts of the Spanish population were used (1991–1996–2004–2008). Dietary information was collected using a validated frequency questionnaire and categorized using the NOVA classification. A total increase of 10.8% in UPF consumption between 1991 and 2008 was found in Spain (p-value < 0.001). The products contributing most to UPF consumption were sugar-sweetened beverages, processed meats, dairy products, and sweets. Those who consumed more ultra-processed foods were younger (p-value < 0.001) and female (p-value = 0.01). Significant differences between the different geographical areas of Spain were found. The eastern part of Spain was the area with the lowest UPF consumption, whereas the north-western part was the area with the highest increase in UPF consumption. Given the negative effect that the consumption of ultra-processed foods has on health, it is necessary to implement public health policies to curb this increase in UPF consumption.