The aim of this study was to examine the relationship between dietary contribution of ultra-processed foods and urinary phytoestrogen concentrations in the US. Participants from cross-sectional 2009–2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey aged 6+ years, selected to measure urinary phytoestrogens and with one 24-h dietary recall were evaluated (2692 participants). Food items were classified according to NOVA (a name, not an acronym), a four-group food classification based on the extent and purpose of industrial food processing. Ultra-processed foods are formulations manufactured using several ingredients and a series of processes (hence “ultra-processed”). Most of their ingredients are lower-cost industrial sources of dietary energy and nutrients, with additives used for the purpose of imitating sensorial qualities of minimally processed foods or of culinary preparations of these foods. Studied phytoestrogens included lignans (enterolactone and enterodiol) and isoflavones (genistein, daidzein, O
-desmethylangolensin and equol). Gaussian regression was used to compare average urinary phytoestrogen concentrations (normalized by creatinine) across quintiles of energy share of ultra-processed foods. Models incorporated survey sample weights and were adjusted for age, sex, race/ethnicity, family income, and education, among other factors. Adjusted enterodiol geometric means decreased monotonically from 60.6 in the lowest quintile to 35.1 µg/g creatinine in the highest, while adjusted enterolactone geometric means dropped from 281.1 to 200.1 across the same quintiles, respectively. No significant linear trend was observed in the association between these quintiles and isoflavone concentrations. This finding reinforces the existing evidence regarding the negative impact of ultra-processed food consumption on the overall quality of the diet and expands it to include non-nutrients such as lignans.
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