Ultra processed food Consumption Relates To Cognitive Decline & Dementia

The consumption of ultra-processed food is related to poorer cognitive performance, cognitive decline, and dementia in different samples.

Ultra processed food Consumption Relates To Cognitive Decline & Dementia

Ultra-processed food consumption has been linked to a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, and obesity, among various other negative health outcomes. One study using machine learning has estimated that over 73% of the food supply in the United States is ultra-processed.

The findings of this study have yet to be evaluated by experts through peer review but are in line with other evidence that shows ultra-processed food consumption is very common in the United States. In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found that calories obtained from ultra-processed foods increased from 53.5% to 57% from 2001–2018.

As such, a growing body of research shows that eating too much ultra-processed food is dangerous for human health. Now, a new study shows more evidence that ultra-processed foods have a negative effect on cognitive health. Lead study author Natalia Gomes Gonçalves, Ph.D., of the University of Sao Paulo Medical School in Sao Paulo, Brazil, told : “Our results together with other two studies provide evidence that the consumption of ultra-processed food is related to poorer cognitive performance, cognitive decline, and dementia in different samples”

Cognitive decline is often the first noticeable sign of dementia, the general term which describes the impaired ability to remember, think or make decisions that can impact everyday life and activities. Ultra-processed food consumption has been previously linked to a reduction in verbal fluency in older adults and has been associated with worsening cognition in older individuals with type 2 diabetes.

The multicenter prospective study included three different time periods between 2008 and 2017. Overall, 10,755 participants aged between 35 and 74 years were included — 5880 of the participants were women and 53.1% were white. Follow-up data an average of 8 years later, showed people with the highest intake of ultra-processed foods had a 28% faster rate of cognitive decline and a 25% faster rate of decline in executive function compared to people who had the lowest ultra-processed food intake.

Dr. Gonçalves explained the findings to MNT: “At this time we cannot say if the consumption of ultra-processed foods is associated with accelerated decline in people who already have cognitive decline. These findings support the role of healthy dietary choices in delaying decline in cognitively healthy people.”

Research has also shown that the Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay (MIND) diet — a combination of the Mediterranean and DASH diets — has been successful in slowing cognitive decline. Dr. Gonçalves agreed that proper diet and nutrition can help protect cognitive health.

“The MIND diet has been linked to better cognitive performance and decreased risk of cognitive decline healthy foods included in the MIND diet are whole grains, green leafy and other vegetables, nuts, beans, berries, poultry, fish, and olive oil.” She added that the most exciting part of her research is to show people that they can make choices about what they eat to maintain healthy cognition.

The 2020–2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans provides nutrition recommendations from birth to older adults: “Focus on nutrient-dense foods and beverages, limit those higher in added sugars, saturated fat, and sodium, and stay within calorie limits.”

Dr. Scott Kaiser, a geriatrician and director of Geriatric Cognitive Health for the Pacific Neuroscience said, “Within our practice, we’ve long been encouraging patients to avoid highly processed foods and supporting them in adopting and maintaining healthier diets”.

“This guidance was based upon the well-established links between ultra-processed food consumption and increased risk of cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, and obesity as clear evidence of direct impacts on cognition have been limited,” said Dr. Scott Kaiser.

Not all processed foods are created equal, as many foods are processed to preserve their flavor, texture, and freshness. But ultra-processed foods are typically ready to eat or drink but contain little to no nutritional value.

The Heart and Stroke Foundation suggests cooking more at home to cut back on ultra-processed foods. When shopping for groceries, a practical way to identify an ultra-processed food is to check its list of ingredients. Does it contain substances never or rarely used in kitchens (i.e., high-fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated, interesterified oils, or hydrolyzed proteins), or classes of additives designed to make the final product more appealing (i.e., flavors, enhancers, colors, or, sweeteners)? As a rule of thumb, stick with real, whole foods that have gone through minimal processing whenever possible.

Originally published at Medical News Today