Junk food negatively impacts children’s skeletal development

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A team of researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem has shown, in a study published in the journal “Bone Research”, that junk food negatively impacts children’s skeletal development. Ultra-processed foods are food products that go through various stages of processing and contain non-dietary ingredients. They are easily accessible, relatively inexpensive, and are often eaten straight from the package. The increasing prevalence of these products around the world has directly contributed to the increase in obesity and other mental and metabolic impacts in consumers of all ages.

Up to 70 percent of children’s caloric intake is estimated to come from ultra-processed foods. While numerous studies have reflected on the overall negative impact of junk food, few have focused on its direct effects on the development of children, especially young children. Given this scenario, the study provides the first complete analysis of how these foods impact skeletal development. To do this, mice whose skeletons were in the growth stages were analyzed. Rodents that were subjected to ultra-processed foods were stunted and their bone strength was adversely affected. In addition, the researchers detected high levels of cartilage accumulation in the growth plates of the rodents, the “engine” of bone growth.

When the rodent cells were further tested, they found that the RNA genetic profiles of cartilage cells that had been subjected to junk food showed characteristics of impaired bone development. Subsequently, the team tried to analyze how specific eating habits might affect bone development and replicated this type of food intake for rodents. “We divided the weekly nutritional intake of rodents: 30 percent came from a ‘controlled’ diet, 70 percent from ultra-processed foods,” have detailed the experts, who discovered that the rodents experienced moderate damage to their bone density, although there was less evidence of cartilage buildup on their growth plates.

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