Ultra-processed food consumption and exposure to phthalates and bisphenols in the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2013–2014

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30 Scopus citations


Background: Ultra-processed food has low nutritional quality, is associated with development of chronic diseases, and may increase exposure to chemicals used in food packaging and production. Objectives: To assess associations of ultra-processed food consumption with exposure to phthalates and bisphenols, including newer replacements, in the general U.S. population. Methods: Among 2212 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2013–2014 participants (≥6 years), we classified items reported in a 24-h dietary recall according to the NOVA food processing classification system and calculated energy intake from ultra-processed food. Urinary concentrations of mono-benzyl (MBzP), mono-(3-carboxypropyl) (MCPP), mono-(carboxyisononyl) (MCNP), mono-(carboxyisoctyl) (MCOP), and four metabolites of di(2-ethylhexyl) (∑DEHP) phthalates and bisphenols A, F, and S were measured in spot urine samples. We estimated percent changes in natural log creatinine-standardized concentrations per 10% higher energy from ultra-processed food in covariate-adjusted multivariable linear regression models. We examined effect measure modification by age group, race/ethnicity, and poverty:income ratio and assessed associations with minimally processed food intake. Results: In adjusted models, higher energy from ultra-processed food was associated with higher urinary concentrations of MCPP, MCNP, and MCOP but not MBzP, ∑DEHP, or bisphenols. Each 10% higher energy from ultra-processed food was associated with 8.0% (95% CI: 5.6%, 10.3%) higher urinary MCOP concentrations, with a stronger association among children than adolescents or adults. Ultra-processed sandwiches/hamburgers, French fries/other potato products, and ice cream/pops were associated with higher concentrations of multiple chemicals. Higher energy from minimally processed food was associated with lower concentrations of MCPP, MCNP, MCOP, and bisphenols A and F. Discussion: Ultra-processed food consumption may increase exposure to currently used phthalates. Additional research is needed to determine whether minimally processed food diets or changes in food production practices can reduce phthalate and bisphenol exposures and related health effects, particularly among children who are more vulnerable to toxicants and tend to consume more ultra-processed food than adults.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number105057
JournalEnvironment international
StatePublished - Oct 2019


  • Bisphenol A
  • Endocrine disruptors
  • Exposure assessment
  • Phthalates
  • Processed food

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science(all)


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