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Availability, Nutritional Profile and Processing Level of Food Products Sold in Vending Machines in a Spanish Public University

Artículos   |   25 de junio de 2021 Date   |  
Background. Given the lack of data about the nutritional value and other determinants of the consumption of foods and drinks sold in vending machines in European universities and the relevance of this sector in Spain, it is necessary to obtain scientific data on this topic. The present study aimed to assess the availability, nutritional profile and processing level of food products from vending machines at a Spanish public university and to investigate differences in nutritional profile according to the cost and promotion. Methods. Cross-sectional descriptive study. Data from all products available (3894) were collected and analysed using the criteria of the Spanish Agency for Consumption, Food Safety and Nutrition and the United Kingdom nutrient profiling model. The items were also classified according to the degree of industrial processing through the NOVA system. Promotion was assessed, taking into account where products were displayed in vending machines. Results. The most common products were sweets (23.4% of the total options), coffee (20.3%) and salty snacks (11.7%). According to the combination of the two criteria used to assess nutritional profile, 48.6% of the products were classified as with low nutritional quality (LNQ). In addition, 73.8% of the items were categorised as “ultra-processed”. Foods (β = 0.31, 95% CI 0.24, 0.39, p < 0.001) and hot drinks (β = 0.46, 95% CI 0.39, 0.52, p < 0.001) with high nutritional quality (HNQ) were more likely to have higher prices than alternatives with LNQ. Both foods and cold drinks that support healthy dietary recommendations were promoted to a lesser extent than those with LNQ (p < 0.001). Conclusion. Almost half of the products were of LNQ and three-quarters had a high level of processing. Moreover, foods and cold drinks with LNQ were less expensive and more often promoted than alternatives with HNQ.
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