A team of researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem proved the link between ultra-processed food and reduced bone quality, discovering the harm that this food has especially for younger children in their developing years. The study, led by Professor Efrat Monsonego-Ornan et al. Janna Zaretsky from the Department of Biochemistry, Food Science and Nutrition, University Faculty of Agriculture, was published in the journal Bone research and serves as the first comprehensive study of the effect of widely available food products on skeletal development.
Ultra-processed foods – called junk foods – are food products that go through several stages of processing and contain dietary ingredients. They are popular among consumers because they are easily available, relatively cheap and ready to eat right out of the box. The growing prevalence of these products worldwide has directly contributed to increased obesity and other mental and metabolic impacts on consumers of all ages.
Children usually like unhealthy foods. It is estimated that as much as 70% of calorie consumption comes from ultra processed foods. Although numerous studies have reflected on the overall negative impact of unhealthy foods, few have focused on its direct developmental effects on children, especially young children.
A study by the Hebrew University provides the first comprehensive analysis of how these foods affect bone development. The study investigated laboratory rodents whose skeletons were in the post-embryonic growth phase. Rodents that were subjected to ultra-processed food suffered from stunted growth and negatively affected their bone strength. During the histological examination, the researchers discovered a high level of cartilage accumulation on the growth plates of rodents, the “engine” of bone growth. When subjected to additional rodent cell tests, the researchers found that the RNA genetic profiles of cartilage cells that were subjected to unhealthy food showed characteristics of impaired bone development.
The team then attempted to analyze how specific eating habits may affect bone development and replicated this type of rodent intake.
We divided the rodent’s weekly dietary intake – 30% comes from a ‘controlled’ diet, 70% from ultra-processed foods. “
Professor Efrat Monsonego-Ornan
They found that the rodents had moderate damage to bone density, although there were fewer indications of cartilage accumulation on their growth plates. “Our conclusion was that even in reduced amounts, ultra-processed foods can have a definite negative impact on skeletal growth.”
These findings are crucial because children and adolescents regularly consume this food to the extent that 50 percent of American children eat unhealthy foods on a daily basis. Monsonego-Ornan added. “When Carlos Monteiro, one of the world’s leading nutritionists, said that there is no healthy ultra-processed food, he was clearly right. Even if we reduce fats, carbohydrates, nitrates and other known harmful substances, those foods still possess their harmful Every part of the body is prone to this damage and certainly those systems that remain in critical stages of development. “
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Zaretsky, J., and others. (2021) Ultra-processed foods target bone quality by endochondral ossification. Bone research. doi.org/10.1038/s41413-020-00127-9.