Ultra-processed foods strongly linked to increased dementia risk – what to eat instead


Dementia is the loss of cognitive functioning — thinking, remembering and reasoning to such an extent that it interferes with a person’s daily life and activities.

Some people with dementia cannot control their emotions, and their personalities may change.

Mounting evidence highlights the importance of your diet when it comes to brain health and dementia risk.

There is strong evidence linking poor diet and increased risk for dementia.

Besides killing the brain cells, too many unhealthy foods can also cause slowed cognitive function and even memory and attention problems for seniors.

Furthermore, it weakens and damages the blood vessels, which again leads to a declining mental capacity.

A latest study has further explored this link finding one food group in particular significantly increasing dementia risk.

People who eat the highest amounts of ultra-processed foods may have a higher risk of developing dementia than those who eat the lowest amounts, according to a new study published in the online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

Researchers also found that replacing ultra-processed foods in a person’s diet with unprocessed or minimally processed foods was associated with a lower risk.

The problem with ultra-processed foods is that they are high in added sugar, fat and salt, and low in protein and fibre.

Ultra-processed foods include:

Soft drinks
Salty and sugary snacks
Ice cream
Deep fried foods
Canned baked beans
Packaged breads
Flavoured cereals.

For the study, researchers identified 72,083 people from the UK Biobank, a large database containing the health information of half a million people living in the United Kingdom.

Those under investigation included participants who were aged 55 and older and who did not have dementia at the start of the study.

They were followed for an average of 10 years.

By the end of the study, 518 people were diagnosed with dementia.

After adjusting for age, gender, family history of dementia and heart disease, and other factors that could affect risk of dementia, researchers found that for every 10% increase in daily intake of ultra-processed foods, people had a 25% higher risk of dementia.

When it came to the biggest culprits for ultra-processed foods and drinks, sugary beverages came out on top followed by sugary products and ultra-processed dairy.

“Ultra-processed foods are meant to be convenient and tasty, but they diminish the quality of a person’s diet,” said study author Dr Huiping Li, of Tianjin Medical University in China.

“These foods may also contain food additives or molecules from packaging or produced during heating, all of which have been shown in other studies to have negative effects on thinking and memory skills.

“Our research not only found that ultra-processed foods are associated with an increased risk of dementia, it found replacing them with healthy options may decrease dementia risk.”

Foods to reduce dementia risk
Alternatively, there are certain foods that help promote brain health and reduce a person’s risk of developing dementia.

According to the British Heart Foundation, these include:

Wholegrains (three or more servings a day)
Green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, cabbage, spring greens, kale and salad leaves (one or more servings a day)
Other vegetables (one or more servings a day)
Beans and lentils (three or more servings a week)
Berries, including blueberries and strawberries (two or more servings a week)
Chicken or turkey (two or more servings a week)
Fish (one or more servings a week)
Olive oil (as the main oil or fat you use)
Wine (no more than one small glass a day – more than this and it becomes more likely to harm health than help it).