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Study: US Diet Contains Mostly 'Ultra-processed' Foods

FILE - A girl has a doughnut and a beverage in New York, Feb. 14, 2013. A new study finds more than half the calories consumed in the average American diet comes from "ultra-processed" foods, including sugary drinks.

A new study finds that more than half the calories consumed in the average American diet comes from "ultra-processed" foods, a factor that can contribute to more obesity and other health conditions like heart disease and diabetes.

A study, published by the online journal BMJ Open, analyzed the diets of more than 9,300 children, teens and adults.

It found that ultra-processed foods made up near 60 percent of all calories consumed and nearly 90 percent if caloric intake from added sugars.

Ultra-processed foods contain several semi-processed ingredients such as oils, flours, sugars, sweeteners and salt. Some of the most popular of these foods would include sugary drinks like soda and other ready made foods like frozen pizza, hamburgers, chips, cakes and candy.

Last year, a joint study by the Pan American Health Organization and the World Health Organization found that the increased consumption of ultra-processed food was "a major driver of growing rates of overweight and obesity."

It said they were "doubly harmful" and "quasi addictive" as they are "engineered to have long shelf lives and to create cravings that can completely overpower people's innate appetite-control mechanisms and their rational desire to stop eating."

The WHO recommends a sugar intake of no more than 25 grams of sugar per day. Experts say decreasing the consumption of ultra-processed food could be an effective way of reducing the excessive intake of added sugar in the U.S.

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