Socioeconomic characteristics and trends in the consumption of ultra-processed foods in Korea from 2010 to 2018

Jee Seon Shim, Sun Young Shim, Hee Jeung Cha, Jinhee Kim, Hyeon Chang Kim

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40 Citations (Scopus)


There is growing evidence for a global transition to a more highly processed diet. While the dietary share of ultra-processed foods depends on a country’s economic status, food choice and consumption are also influenced by the socioeconomic situation of individuals. This study investigated whether ultra-processed food consumption differed across socioeconomic subgroups and over time (2010–2018) in Korea. Cross-sectional data from the Korea National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2010–2018 were analyzed. Food and beverages reported in a one-day 24 h recall were classified according to the NOVA food classification criteria. The dietary energy contribution of ultra-processed foods was high among men and urban residents, and increased with education and income level; additionally, it reached its peak in adolescents and thereafter decreased with increasing age. After adjusting the socioeconomic variables, such associations remained significant, except for income level. The overall contribution of ultra-processed foods increased from 23.1% (2010–2012) to 26.1% (2016–2018), and the same trend over time was observed in all age groups and socioeconomic strata. In the Korean population, ultra-processed food consumption differed by individual socioeconomic characteristics, but gradually increased over time, and this trend was consistently found in all socioeconomic subgroups. Future strategies to promote healthy food choices are needed for the Korean population.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1120
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Food Science
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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