Americans are overexposed to products that are high in energy, saturated fat, sugar and salt, according to a new Northwestern Medicine study that reports the United States packaged food and beverage supply in 2018 was ultra-processed and generally unhealthy.

Since about 80% of Americans’ total calorie consumption comes from store-bought foods and beverages (packaged and unpackaged), the food and beverage supply plays a central role in the development of chronic disease including obesity and cardiovascular disease.

The study was published today, July 24, in the journal Nutrients. It aims to provide new information for consumers, researchers and policymakers to encourage food manufacturers to reformulate or replace unhealthy products and to inform the U.S. government on where action may be needed to improve the healthfulness of the U.S. packaged food and beverage supply.

“To say that our food supply is highly processed won’t shock anyone, but it’s important that we hold food and beverage manufacturers accountable by continually documenting how they’re doing in terms of providing healthy foods for consumers,” said lead author Abigail Baldridge, a biostatistician in the department of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “And the verdict is they can and should be doing a whole lot better.”

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