Background: The competition between ultra-processed products (UPP) and fruits and vegetables (FV) for shares in populations’ diet has been sparsely explored as a potential factor limiting the consumption of FV. Among the UPP, sodas and cookies have been consistently associated to several nutritional problems, such as obesity, and their participation in populations’ diet follow an increasingly worrying trend in countries such as Brazil.
Aim: This study aims at examining the influence of the increasing trend of household availability of ultra-processed sodas and cookies (SC) over the impact of a multi-setting multi-component intervention that integrates several actions to promote the consumption of F&V among families from low-income communities in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, between 2007 and 2010.
Methods: A communitarian before-and-after intervention study design was adopted. Data collection has included two baseline assessments and a post-intervention one on the household availability of FV and UPP.
Results: The intervention effectively increased the household availability of FV (+2.7 percentage points: CI95% 1.5-4.0), overcoming the current trend of stagnation found in the Brazilian population living at similar conditions. On the other hand the share of SC in families’ diets, which has not been an object of the intervention, followed the increasing trend found in Brazil (+5.8 percentage points: CI95% 3.3-8.4).
Conclusions: Families that increased the acquisition of SC have experienced lower increase, or decrease, in the acquisition of FV (p<0.05). Families that have increased the share of calories from SC (51.6%) have had a chance four times lower to experience an increase in the household availability of FV. Therefore, regulatory measures aimed at reducing the demand for unhealthy products (e.g. price control, marketing regulation) competing with healthy foods might amplify the positive impact achieved by effective community-based interventions at local level.