Ultra-Processed Food Consumption and H. pylori Infection


In a novel investigation, researchers have uncovered a significant association between the intake of ultra-processed foods (UPFs) and the increased risk of Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection. This study marks the first of its kind to explore the connection between UPFs consumption and H. pylori, adding a new dimension to our understanding of dietary influences on infectious diseases.

UPFs and H. pylori Infection: The Connection

The study’s findings revealed that individuals consuming high amounts of UPFs—characterized by significant intakes of sweets, cakes, non-dairy and dairy drinks, processed meats, and fast foods—are 2.17 times more likely to develop H. pylori infection. This discovery is particularly alarming given the established links between UPFs and a range of chronic conditions, including irritable bowel syndrome, dyspepsia, weight gain, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes mellitus, and various inflammatory diseases.

UPFs and H. pylori Infection: The Findings

The study involved 150 cases and 302 controls, with an average age of 32.31 years and a male majority (61.7%). Analysis revealed that compared to controls, individuals in the case group (those with H. pylori infection) were significantly older, had a higher Body Mass Index (BMI), greater waist circumference, and were more likely to be current smokers. Dietary analysis showed that those with H. pylori consumed more energy, protein, carbohydrates, nondairy beverages, fast foods, oils, and sauces, but less total fat, processed meats, and sweets.

The study also examined the consumption patterns of ultra-processed foods (UPFs) among participants. The data, illustrated in figures and tables within the study, highlighted the increased intake of UPFs among those with H. pylori infection, particularly in the highest tertile of UPF consumption.

Statistically, the odds of having H. pylori infection were significantly higher in the third tertile of UPF consumption compared to the first tertile, even after adjusting for potential confounders such as age, BMI, sex, energy intake, physical activity, smoking, and alcohol status. Specifically, the odds ratios (ORs) indicated a 1.71 times higher chance of infection in the crude model, which increased to 2.21 times after adjusting for age, BMI, and sex, and remained significant at 2.17 times higher in the most adjusted model, which included a broad range of potential confounders.

In conclusion, the study found a significant association between higher UPF consumption and increased risk of H. pylori infection, highlighting the potential health risks associated with the dietary intake of UPFs.

Why Are UPFs a Concern?

UPFs are known for their high fat, sugar, salt, and calorie content while being low in essential nutrients like minerals, fiber, proteins, and vitamins. The use of additives such as high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, and artificial sweeteners—aimed at enhancing taste and prolonging shelf life—further marks these foods as nutritionally inadequate.

Possible mechanisms through which UPFs may increase H. pylori infection risk

The study suggests several mechanisms through which UPFs may increase H. pylori infection risk:

  • Salt and Gastric Conditions: High salt content in UPFs can damage the stomach’s mucous barrier, facilitating H. pylori colonization and resulting in gastritis.
  • Carbohydrate Content: The high carbohydrate levels, especially from soft drinks, may increase urea influx and ammonia production, aiding H. pylori‘s survival in acidic environments.
  • Inflammation: UPFs are linked to increased inflammatory markers, creating favorable conditions for H. pylori growth.

Additional Findings and Implications

The research also highlighted that individuals with H. pylori infection tend to consume more fast foods and oils, further underscoring the role of dietary habits in infectious disease risks. Moreover, those infected with H. pylori showed higher energy intake, body weight, and waist circumference, aligning with previous studies linking UPFs to weight gain.

An intriguing aspect of the study is the negative correlation between fruit and vegetable consumption and H. pylori infection risk. This underscores the protective role of a diet rich in anti-inflammatory compounds against infections, highlighting how UPFs consumption could indirectly contribute to H. pylori infection by displacing healthier dietary choices.

Conclusions and Future Directions

This pioneering study not only establishes a link between UPF consumption and H. pylori infection risk but also opens avenues for further research to unravel the underlying mechanisms. With UPFs being a staple in modern diets, understanding their impact on health is crucial. Future studies are needed to confirm these findings and explore interventions to mitigate the adverse health effects associated with UPFs consumption.

The significance of this research lies not only in its immediate findings but also in its potential to influence dietary guidelines and public health policies, emphasizing the need for a greater focus on whole, unprocessed foods for optimal health and disease prevention.


  1. Ebrahimi Z, Shateri Z, Nouri M, et al. Ultra-processed food intake and risk of Helicobacter pylori infection: A case–control study. Food Sci Nutr 2024 Apr 1.
Last update: 15 April 2024, 19:55


Gastroenterologist - Hepatologist, Thessaloniki

PhD at Medical School, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece

PGDip at Universitair Medisch Centrum Utrecht, The Netherlands

Ex President, Hellenic H. pylori & Microbiota Study Group