Perspective: A Research Roadmap about Ultra-Processed Foods and Human Health for the United States Food System: Proceedings from an Interdisciplinary, Multi-Stakeholder Workshop

Lauren E. O'Connor, Kelly A. Higgins, Katarina Smiljanec, Robert Bergia, Andrew W. Brown, David Baer, Cindy Davis, Mario G. Ferruzzi, Kevin Miller, Sylvia Rowe, Janice M.W. Rueda, Aline Andres, Sean B. Cash, John Coupland, Meghan Crimmins, Chelsey Fiecke, Ciarán G. Forde, Naomi K. Fukagawa, Kevin D. Hall, Bruce HamakerKirsten A. Herrick, Julie M. Hess, Lise AJ Heuven, Filippa Juul, Fiona C. Malcomson, Euridice Martinez-Steele, Richard D. Mattes, Mark Messina, Alyson Mitchell, Fang Fang Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Our objective was to convene interdisciplinary experts from government, academia, and industry to develop a Research Roadmap to identify research priorities about processed food intake and risk for obesity and cardiometabolic diseases (CMD) among United States populations. We convened attendees at various career stages with diverse viewpoints in the field. We held a “Food Processing Primer” to build foundational knowledge of how and why foods are processed, followed by presentations about how processed foods may affect energy intake, obesity, and CMD risk. Breakout groups discussed potential mechanistic and confounding explanations for associations between processed foods and obesity and CMD risk. Facilitators created research questions (RQs) based on key themes from discussions. Different breakout groups convened to discuss what is known and unknown for each RQ and to develop sub-RQs to address gaps. Workshop attendees focused on ultra-processed foods (UPFs; Nova Group 4) because the preponderance of evidence is based on this classification system. Yet, heterogeneity and subjectivity in UPF classification was a challenge for RQ development. The 6 RQs were: 1) What objective methods or measures could further categorize UPFs, considering food processing, formulation, and the interaction of the two? 2) How can exposure assessment of UPF intake be improved? 3) Does UPF intake influence risk for obesity or CMDs, independent of diet quality? 4) What, if any, attributes of UPFs influence ingestive behavior and contribute to excess energy intake? 5) What, if any, attributes of UPFs contribute to clinically meaningful metabolic responses? 6) What, if any, external environmental factors lead people to consume high amounts of UPFs? Uncertainty and complexity around UPF intake warrant further complementary and interdisciplinary causal, mechanistic, and methodological research related to obesity and CMD risk to understand the utility of applying classification by degree of processing to foods in the United States.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalAdvances in Nutrition
StateAccepted/In press - 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Food Science
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics

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