Processed Foods Rot Your Brain, New Study Says

A new study from JAMA Neurology has revealed a shocking truth about processed foods: they can rot your brain. The study, which involved 10,775 participants aged 35-74 from six Brazilian cities, shows that eating processed foods can lead to a decline in cognitive performance over time. This means that if you’re eating processed foods, you’re potentially putting your brain at risk. So if you want to protect your mental health, it might be time to cut back on processed foods.

Overview of the study

A new study published in JAMA Neurology has revealed that eating processed foods can cause cognitive impairment. The study, conducted over a six-year period in six cities in Brazil, included 10,775 participants aged 35 to 74. To assess changes in cognitive performance, the researchers used the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) and the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA).
The study found that participants who ate ultra-processed foods, such as processed meats, sugary cereals, and pre-packaged snacks, showed a greater decline in cognitive performance than those who consumed unprocessed or minimally processed foods. This was particularly true for people with higher levels of educational attainment and cognitive reserve, who experienced the greatest decrease in cognitive ability.
The study also found that diets high in carbohydrates, such as those that are high in ultra-processed foods, had a negative impact on cognitive performance. This is because diets high in carbohydrates are associated with the decreased brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and increased levels of Lecanemab, two proteins that are linked to cognitive impairment.
Overall, this study highlights the importance of a balanced diet that includes both unprocessed and minimally processed foods. Eating too many ultra-processed foods can lead to cognitive impairment and should be avoided as much as possible. For individuals struggling with cognitive impairment, cognitive behavioral therapy and other interventions can help improve cognitive functioning.

Results of the study

In the JAMA Neurology study, researchers studied the effects of consuming ultra-processed foods on cognitive performance over time. They used a battery of tests to evaluate cognitive function, including the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA) and the Brief Cognitive Status Examination (BCSE). Additionally, they evaluated cognitive reserve by assessing educational attainment, occupational complexity, and leisure activities.
Results showed that individuals who ate ultra-processed foods were more likely to experience cognitive decline than those who ate unprocessed foods. This decline was particularly marked in those with low levels of education and occupation complexity, suggesting a potential role for cognitive reserve in buffering cognitive decline.
This is concerning news for the many people around the world who regularly consume ultra-processed foods. Examples of ultra-processed foods include frozen meals, canned foods, snacks, soft drinks, energy bars, sweetened breakfast cereals, chips, cookies, and other convenience foods. To protect their brains from further harm, people should reduce their consumption of these types of processed foods and opt instead for unprocessed foods like fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.
Fortunately, there are other steps individuals can take to protect their brains from cognitive decline. Studies have found that physical activity, mental stimulation, and even cognitive behavioral therapy can all help to maintain or improve cognitive performance. By making healthy lifestyle choices and reducing the amount of ultra-processed foods they consume, individuals can help to protect their brains and improve their cognitive function.

Implications of the findings

The findings of the JAMA Neurology study suggest that people who consume a lot of ultra-processed foods, such as fast food and pre-packaged snacks, may be at a higher risk for cognitive impairment than those who eat unprocessed foods. According to the study, participants who ate more ultra-processed foods had lower scores on tests that measure memory and executive function, including the Montreal Cognitive Assessment.
The findings have implications beyond just the physical health risks associated with consuming ultra-processed foods. It is well known that our diets can impact our mental health, and this study provides more evidence that our diet may also play an important role in preserving cognitive functioning. It may be beneficial for individuals to limit their intake of ultra-processed foods and focus on eating unprocessed whole foods in order to promote cognitive health. Cognitive behavioral therapy can also help individuals learn strategies to combat cravings for unhealthy food, as well as help them to develop healthier habits.
Cognitive reserve is a concept that suggests that engaging in activities such as reading and learning new skills can help build up a reserve of cognitive abilities that can help protect against cognitive decline. Engaging in cognitively stimulating activities can be an important part of maintaining cognitive functioning over time, regardless of what kind of diet you consume.

What can be done to reduce the risk?

The research concluded that people who eat ultra-processed foods (UPF) are more likely to experience cognitive impairment over time. While further research is needed to understand the exact cause-and-effect relationship between UPF and cognitive decline, it is clear that reducing our intake of these foods is a good way to reduce the risk of cognitive impairment.
One way to reduce UPF intake is by focusing on eating unprocessed foods. Examples of unprocessed foods include whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes. Eating a balanced diet with a variety of these unprocessed foods can help to provide your body with the nutrients it needs for optimal cognitive health.
In addition, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) may be beneficial for those looking to improve their cognitive function. CBT is a type of psychotherapy that can help people recognize and change negative thinking and behavior patterns. By practicing CBT techniques, individuals may be able to better manage stress and improve their overall cognitive functioning.
Finally, engaging in activities that stimulate the brain such as puzzles, crosswords, or reading can help to increase cognitive reserve, which is the amount of brain capacity available to resist age-related declines in cognitive functioning.
Reducing UPF intake, eating a balanced diet with unprocessed foods, engaging in cognitive behavioral therapy, and stimulating the brain are all great ways to reduce the risk of cognitive impairment and preserve cognitive health over time.