Processed foods cause a reduction in our cognitive function and the brain’s ability to analyze, focus and handle complex problems.
Processed food and cognitive decline
Over the past 40 years, food industries have increased the availability of highly processed foods, which often include flavorings, colorings, emulsifiers and other additives. Typical highly processed foods are sweet and salty snacks, cakes, cereals, ice cream, sugary drinks, processed meats, and ready-to-eat frozen meals.
58% of the calories consumed by Americans, 57% of the calories consumed by the British, 48% of the calories consumed by Canadians, and 30% of the calories consumed by Brazilians come from highly processed foods.
In addition to problems in cognitive function, these foods have been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, and obesity.
The results of the investigations
Now, a new study, published in the scientific journal NEVERcomes to investigate the association between highly processed foods and cognitive impairment with the participation of about 11,000 people from six regions of Brazil, who were followed for 8 years.
The results were not encouraging.
Scientists have discovered that not only is cognitive decline accelerated, but executive function of the brain is also limitedwhich is responsible for our ability to plan, remember, focus, and manage complex or multiple problems at the same time.
The researchers began the research because the incidence of dementia is expected to rise dramatically to 153 million people in 2050, from 57 million people in 2019, due to increasing life expectancy worldwide.
Dementia is the most important cause of disability in high-income countries, but the limited effectiveness of existing treatments to date has led scientists to seek interventions to prevent the disease, such as active lifestyle changes exercise, a healthy diet, and smoking cessation to preserve brain volume and reduce the risk of cognitive decline over time.
Natalia Gomez Gonzalez del Department of Medicine Pathology from São Paulo, Brazil, Naomi Vidal Ferreira of the Department of Geriatric Medicine from São Paulo and Neha Kandpour from Nutrition Department from Harvard University and the University of São Paulo included 10,775 participants from 35 to 74 years of age in their study, with a mean age of 51.6 years. The participants ate a diet of 600 to 6,000 calories per day and were not taking any medications that could affect their cognitive function. The average body mass index was 26.9 and the average daily caloric intake was 2,856 calories, of which 27% came from highly processed foods, or an average of 785 calories per day from these foods.
The experts divided the food into three groups
The first group included unprocessed or minimally processed foods and processed cooking ingredients, meaning fresh, dried, or frozen fruits or vegetables, grains, legumes, meat, fish, and milk, that have undergone minimal processing, such as grinding, baking, pasteurization, or freezing. It also included processed cooking ingredients such as sugar, oils, salt, and other extract-containing substances for the preparation of cooking preparations.
the second group included processed foods that are made from unprocessed or minimally processed foodswith preservatives and flavor enhancers, such as canned fruit, bread and cheese preparations, and cured meats or salted or smoked fish.
the third group included highly processed foodsmulti-ingredient preparations such as sugar, fats, salt, extracts, and food additives that are not used in home preparations, such as flavors, colors, sweeteners, emulsifiers, and other substances used to hide undesirable properties of the final product or to mimic the sensory properties of the culinary preparations of group 1.
How much processed food do we eat?
The researchers grouped daily consumption of highly processed foods into four categories as follows: 0-19.9%, 20-26.7%, 26.8-34.1%, and 34.2-72.7 %.
The first analysis compared each of the four categories with the first category constituting the reference group, and then the last three categories were pooled and compared with the first category.
Of the participants, those in the fourth category with the highest consumption of ultra-processed foods were most likely to be young, white women with higher education and income who did not smoke or drink alcohol. They ate more calories, had the least physical activity, had fewer comorbidities, but a higher incidence of depressive symptoms.
After an average follow-up of 8 years, study participants who reported consuming more than 19.9% of daily calories from ultra-processed foods had a 28% faster rate of overall cognitive decline and a 28% faster rate of executive decline. 25% faster compared to those who ate these foods on less than 19.9% of daily calories. There were no findings related to memory.
Participants younger than 60 years with a consumption of ultra-processed foods greater than 19.9% showed faster general cognitive decline compared to those older than 60 years, but also than those with an consumption of ultra-processed foods less than 19.9%. 19.9%.