A study presented at The Liver Meeting found a significant association between the consumption of ultra-processed foods (UPF) and the risk of metabolic dysfunction-associated steatotic liver disease (MASLD) in both adolescents and adults.
Here’s a summary of the key findings:
Study Overview: The cross-sectional study analyzed data from 806 adolescents and 2,734 adults who participated in the 2017-2018 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The researchers used two 24-hour dietary recalls to estimate UPF intake and diagnosed MASLD using transient elastography.
Findings on UPF Consumption and MASLD Risk: Adolescents consumed an average of 810 grams of UPF per day, while adults consumed 823 grams per day. MASLD was diagnosed in 12.4% of adolescents and 35.6% of adults. The study found that higher UPF intake was associated with increased odds of MASLD in both groups. For adolescents, the odds ratio (OR) for the highest versus lowest quintile of UPF intake was 2.34, and for adults, it was 1.72. These associations were largely mediated by elevated body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference.
Implications and Future Research: This is the first study to report a positive association between UPF intake and MASLD in adolescents, suggesting that reducing UPF intake may help prevent MASLD. The study’s author, Longgang Zhao, PhD, emphasized the need for prospective studies to validate these associations and for more diverse study populations to enhance generalizability. Further research incorporating -omics data, such as proteomics or metabolomics, is warranted to fully understand the mechanism linking UPF to MASLD.
The study highlights the potential health risks associated with high consumption of ultra-processed foods and underscores the importance of dietary choices in preventing liver diseases like MASLD.