- Ultra-processed foods are commonplace in the United States – an estimated 73% of the US food supply is ultra-processed.
- Almost all foods are processed for preservation, but ultra-processed “ready-to-eat” foods are often nutritionally poor and can lead to overconsumption.
- Previous research has linked the consumption of ultra-processed foods to a range of negative health outcomes.
- People who eat more ultra-processed foods are at higher risk of cognitive decline, a new study shows.
Consumption of ultra-processed foods has been
A study using machine learning estimated that over 73% of the food supply in the United States is ultra-processed. The findings of this study have not yet been evaluated by experts through peer review, but are consistent with other evidence that shows the consumption of ultra-processed foods is very common in the states. -United.
Thus, a growing body of research shows that eating too many ultra-processed foods is dangerous for human health. Now, a new study shows more evidence that ultra-processed foods have a negative effect on cognitive health.
The study’s lead author, Natalia Gomes Gonçalves, Ph.D., of the University of Sao Paulo School of Medicine in Sao Paulo, Brazil, said Medical News Today:
“Our results, along with these two other studies, provide evidence that consumption of ultra-processed foods is linked to poorer cognitive performance, cognitive decline and dementia in different samples”
The study has just been published in
Not all processed foods are created equal, as many foods are processed to preserve their flavor, texture, and freshness.
But ultra-processed foods are usually ready-to-eat or drink, but contain little or no nutritional value.
The NOVA Food Classification System categorizes foods based on the amount of processing used to preserve, extract, modify, or create them. The system describes four groups:
- Minimally processed foods: Unprocessed or minimally processed foods such as seeds, fruits, eggs, and milk.
- Processed culinary ingredients: These include salt, sugar, honey and oils – foods in this group are processed by being pressed, ground or ground.
- Processed foods: From bread to cheese to canned foods, processed foods are made simply by adding sugar, oil, or salt to foods. Processes include cooking and fermentation.
- Ultra-processed food and beverage products: These are industrial formulations with ingredients such as stabilizers and preservatives, including foods like chocolate, candy, ice cream, cookies, pastries, cakes, pizza, and fast food.
Cognitive decline is often the first visible sign of
Consumption of ultra-processed foods has been
The current study provides more evidence linking the consumption of ultra-processed foods to an increased risk of cognitive decline.
The prospective, multicenter study included three different time periods between 2008 and 2017. A total of 10,755 participants between the ages of 35 and 74 were included – 5,880 of the participants were female and 53.1% were Caucasian.
At the start of the study, participants completed a food frequency questionnaire. At specific times throughout the study, they performed cognitive tests analyzing word recall, recognition and fluency.
Follow-up data, on average 8 years later, showed that people consuming the most ultra-processed foods had a 28% faster rate of cognitive decline and a 25% faster rate of decline in executive function compared to compared to people who had the lowest ultra-transformed rate. -consumption of processed foods.
Dr. Gonçalves explained the results to DTM:
“At this time, we cannot say whether consumption of ultra-processed foods is associated with accelerated decline in people who already suffer from cognitive decline. These findings support the role of healthy food choices in delaying decline in cognitively healthy people.
Dr. Gonçalves agreed that proper diet and nutrition can help protect cognitive health.
“The MIND diet was associated with better cognitive performance and a lower risk of cognitive decline […] healthy foods included in the MIND diet are whole grains, green and other leafy vegetables, nuts, beans, berries, poultry, fish, and olive oil.
She added that the most exciting part of her research is showing people that they can make choices about what they eat to maintain healthy cognition.
“Food choices are a powerful way to help maintain healthy brain function. It is possible to make healthier food choices within our means to maintain overall health as we age. Additionally, middle age is an important period of life to adopt preventative measures through lifestyle changes since the choices we make at this age will influence our older years.
– Natalia Gomes Gonçalves, Ph.D., study lead author
The occasional serving of processed foods is unlikely to cause harm, but ultra-processed foods should be limited as much as possible.
Dr. Scott Kaiser, a geriatrician and director of geriatric cognitive health at the Pacific Neuroscience Institute at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif., not involved in the study, told DTM that in clinical practice, healthcare professionals encourage healthy eating to manage cognitive health.
“In our practice, we have a long history of encouraging patients to avoid highly processed foods and helping them adopt and maintain healthier diets,” Dr. Kaiser said.
“This guidance was based on the well-established links between consumption of ultra-processed foods and increased risk of cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome and obesity, as clear evidence of direct impacts on cognition has been limited.”
Dr Kaiser added that around 40% of all dementia cases could “theoretically be prevented or significantly delayed” if the risk of comorbid health conditions in which diet and lifestyle factors play a role. was eliminated. These conditions include:
“This study makes important contributions to what is currently accumulating in support of the negative effects of ultra-processed foods on cognition and brain health; including the fact that it was done in a large, ethnically diverse cohort with approximately a decade of follow-up. It is also important that this study assess the impacts of diet on cognition in middle-aged people, as more evidence is needed to support dementia prevention strategies.
– Dr. Scott Kaiser, geriatrician
Focus on Nutrient-Dense Whole Foods
The Heart and Stroke Foundation suggests cooking more at home to reduce ultra-processed foods.
When grocery shopping, a handy way to identify an ultra-processed food is to check its ingredient list.
Does it contain substances never or rarely used in cooking (i.e. high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated, interesterified or hydrolyzed protein oils) or classes of additives designed to make the end product more appealing (i.e. flavorings, flavor enhancers, colorings, or sweeteners)?
As a general rule, stick with real, whole foods that have undergone minimal processing whenever possible.
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