Junk food has 'negative impact on child's skeletal development'

·1-min read

New research has shown that junk food can lead to reduced bone quality in children.

A team of researchers from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem conducted the first comprehensive study of the effect of widely-available food products on the skeletal development in children and found a link between ultra-processed foods and reduced bone quality.

The researchers studied lab rodents whose skeletons were in "the post embryonic stages of growth" and the rodents which were given ultra-processed foods suffered from growth retardation and their bone strength was adversely affected.

The experts also found high levels of cartilage build-up in the rodents' growth plates, and the RNA genetic profiles of cartilage cells that had been subjected to junk food showed signs of impaired bone development.

It's estimated that as much as 70 per cent of a child's calorie consumption comes from ultra-processed foods, so the team also recreated that percentage in the rodents' diets. They found that the rodents experienced moderate damage to their bone density, although there were fewer indications of cartilage build-up in their growth plates.

"Our conclusion was that even in reduced amounts, the ultra-processed foods can have a definite negative impact on skeletal growth," said study leader Professor Efrat Monsonego-Ornan.

"When Carlos Monteiro, one of the world's leading experts on nutrition, said that there is no such thing as a healthy ultra-processed food, he was clearly right. Even if we reduce fats, carbs, nitrates and other known harmful substances, these foods still possess their damaging attributes. Every part of the body is prone to this damage and certainly those systems that remain in the critical stages of development."

The findings were published in the journal Bone Research.