Ultra-Processed Food Availability and Noncommunicable Diseases: A Systematic Review.

International journal of environmental research and public health. 2021;18(14)

Other resources

Plain language summary

Ultra-processed foods (UPF) are described as “processed ingredients typically combined with the sophisticated use of additives to make them edible, palatable and habit forming.” The aim of this study was to compile and analyse studies that related UPF availability with mortality and morbidity from non-communicable diseases or their risk factors. This study is a systematic review of eleven studies. Of the 11 articles, six evaluated availability through purchase and five through sales of UPF. Results showed a positive association between UPF availability and increase of body mass index, overweight or obesity. Authors conclude that further exploration of available data is needed in order to assess the relationship between UPF and other health outcomes, such as incidence, prevalence and mortality from cardiovascular diseases, diabetes or cancer.


Ultra-processed food (UPF) can be harmful to the population's health. To establish associations between UPF and health outcomes, food consumption can be assessed using availability data, such as purchase lists or household budget surveys. The aim of this systematic review was to search studies that related UPF availability with noncommunicable diseases or their risk factors. PRISMA guidelines were used. Searches were performed in PubMed, EBSCO, Scopus and Web of Science in February 2021. The search strategy included terms related to exposure (UPF) and outcomes (noncommunicable diseases and their risk factors). Studies that assessed only food consumption at an individual level and did not present health outcomes were excluded. Two reviewers conducted the selection process, and a third helped when disagreement occurred. The Newcastle-Ottawa Scale was used to assess the studies' quality; 998 records were analyzed. All 11 eligible studies were ecological and assessed overweight and obesity as a health outcome, only one showed no positive association with UPF availability. Two studies included the prevalence of diabetes as an outcome, however no significant association was found with UPF availability. Studies relating UPF availability and health outcomes are focused on overweight and obesity. It is necessary to further explore the relationship between other health outcomes and UPF availability using purchase or sales data.

Lifestyle medicine

Fundamental Clinical Imbalances : Structural
Patient Centred Factors : Triggers/Ultra-processed food
Environmental Inputs : Diet
Personal Lifestyle Factors : Nutrition
Functional Laboratory Testing : Not applicable

Methodological quality

Jadad score : Not applicable
Allocation concealment : Not applicable