Article – Ultra-processed products in Argentina: evaluation of the nutrients profile model of the Pan American Health Organization

Introduction: In Argentina, problems related to excess weight constitute one of the main challenges for public health. The background indicates that the consumption of ultra-processed products contributes to this trend due to their high sugar, total saturated, trans fat and sodium content. This study analyzes the PAHO nutrient profile in some ultra-processed products available in the Argentine market.

Materials and methods: Field, cross-sectional, comparative study. Nutrient profile (free sugars, total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, sodium) and caloric density were evaluated. The categories were: sweet cookies, alfajores, chocolates, candies, ice creams, cereals, drinks, spreads, salty and dairy snacks. A descriptive and inferential statistical analysis was performed.

Results: The sample was made up of 682 products and all of them exceeded the cut-off point of at least one nutrient, 94.4% presented an excessive amount of free sugars, 47.9% an excessive amount of total fats, 59. 2% excessive amount of saturated fat, 10.6% excessive amount of trans fat and 9.1% excessive amount of sodium. The average of the total caloric density was 3.19. Products with an excessive amount of total, saturated and trans fats had a higher caloric density (p<0.05); however, the caloric density of the products with an excessive amount of free sugars was lower (p=0.000), the same trend was found in the as of sodium, but this difference was not statistically significant.

Conclusions: All the products exceeded the cut-off point for at least one critical nutrient and having a lower caloric density did not guarantee their nutritional quality. The nutrient profile accurately reflects the nature of ultra-processed products.