Study reveals that processed food may increase the risk of dementia

Study reveals that processed food may increase the risk of dementia

  • Researchers followed more than 10,000 adults to see how diet affects mental acuity.
  • They found that people who regularly eat ultra-processed foods have an increased risk of cognitive decline.
  • Ultra-processed foods account for more than half of the total calories consumed by Americans.

Most of the food we eat is processed to some degree, but not all additives are created equal.

Ultra-processed foods – a category that includes frozen meals, fast food and most breakfast cereals – have been linked to health risks such as heart disease, cancer and early death.

Recent research suggests that regular consumption of some of the most processed foods can have long-term effects on brain health.

In a study of more than 10,000 middle-aged adults, those who got more than 20% of their daily calories from ultra-processed foods had an increased risk of cognitive decline over a 10-year period, according to results published Monday in JAMA Neurology.

That’s less than the average intake of ultra-processed foods in Brazil, where the study was conducted, said co-author Claudia Suemoto. CNN. In the US, the consumption of processed food is even more widespread: about 57% of the calories consumed by the US population come from ultra-processed foods, New York University researchers found in 2021.

People who ate the biggest portions ultra-processed food had a 28% faster rate of global cognitive decline compared to those who ate the least. The part of the brain responsible for executive function appears to be particularly hard hit, the researchers noted.

However, balancing processed snacks with whole food may help preserve brain power, the authors found.

It is not too late to preserve brain health with healthy food

The researchers observed signs of cognitive decline in the participants during the observation period, which lasted about eight years for each individual. The average age of the participants at the start of the study was 51, which highlights the importance of taking it preventive measures in middle age.

Cognitive ability was assessed based on immediate and delayed word recall, word recognition and verbal fluency, according to research methods.

While most people who got more than 20% of their daily energy from ultra-processed foods scored progressively lower on cognitive tests over the years, those who maintained an overall healthy diet seemed to defy the connection.

The researchers grouped the participants not only based on their consumption of ultra-processed foods, but also according to their overall diet. They scored all participants based on how closely they followed the MIND diet, a cross between Mediterranean and DASH child which contains leafy vegetables, berries, nuts, olive oil, whole grains, fish and poultry.

The diet is intended as an intervention for neurodegenerative delays, so experts believe it helps prevent a type of cognitive decline see in the study. As expected, participants with an above-average MIND diet score did not experience the accelerated decline seen in most processed food consumers.

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