Author ORCID Identifier

# only: 0009-0001-0473-5931

Date of Award

Spring 5-12-2023

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)


Public Health

First Advisor

Dr. Ike Okosun, MS, MPH, PhD, FTOS, FACE

Second Advisor

Dr. Brian Barger



Identifying Modern Diet Behaviors and Tendencies with Ultra Processed Foods in The United States Contributing to the Increasing Hispanic Childhood Overweight/Obesity Epidemic


Ilenia Morales

May 1, 2023

Introduction: Childhood overweight/obesity, a serious and escalating problem in the US. This explores how childhood overweight/obesity disproportionately affects Hispanic children in the US. In the years 2017 – 2020 the CDC reported obesity prevalence to be 19.7% and affected about 14.7 million children and adolescents. Obesity prevalence was 26.2% among Hispanic children, 24.8% among non-Hispanic Black children, and 16.6% among non-Hispanic White children. Childhood obesity is associated with some modern lifestyle tendencies, like eating behaviors. Many products distributed by the big food industry are Ultra Processed Foods (UPF) which can potentially influence the modern diet trend and behaviors that could contribute to Hispanic childhood obesity in the United States.

Aim: This study’s purpose is to explore some of the modern diet trend behaviors involving UPFs could be contributing to Hispanic childhood obesity in the United States, and explore how socioeconomic status can disproportionally affect Hispanic children as well as the association between UPF consumption and its capacity to affect a child’s body and overall health due to the unhealthy ingredients and processes UPFs undergo before they make it to the table

Methods: Secondary data was analyzed using the 2017 – 2018 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) surveys. This is a cross-sectional program of studies designed to assess adults' and children's health and nutritional status across the country.

Results: In the sample obtained from the NHANES more than double the number of Non-Hispanic White children fell in the high-income category compared to Hispanic children. The majority of children had between 1 – 4 meals within the last 30 days not home prepared or from a fast food or pizza place and they had high BMI for age-sex values. More than half of the sample with all characteristics included had BMI by age-sex values that fell in the obesity category in both ethnicities according to CDC’s guidelines and BMI for age-sex values.

Discussion: Addressing Hispanic childhood obesity in the US. Requires an approach where many levels of infrastructure are involved. This is from the national or governmental level with policies and laws all the way to the individual level by educating individuals to make better decisions when feeding their children. As Hispanic childhood obesity rates are high it is crucial to work on reversing this epidemic. There is still a need for more focused studies to try and understand what type of UPFs Hispanic children are eating and how they could be affecting their bodies in terms of adiposity levels.


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