Nation's favourite foods and drinks may lead to dementia, study finds – do you eat them?

Dementia describes a cluster of symptoms associated with an ongoing cognitive decline. Worryingly, what you put into your body could increase your risk of the mind-robbing condition. A new study suggests that some nation’s favourites could decline your brain quicker.

From biscuits to breakfast cereals and sugary drinks to processed meats, a diet packed with ultra-processed food may lead to dementia.

New research, published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, suggests that middle-aged adults who ate the most processed products saw their brains decline 28 percent quicker.

In case you aren’t aware, ultra-processed foods generally have higher sugar, salt and saturated fat content.

According to the study, around 57 percent of the calories consumed by British citizens comes from ultra-processed meals.

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One very popular option with Britons is processed meats – this includes your beloved sausages and bacon.

Other processed products, such as crisps, biscuits, and ready meals, also pose a risk.

Looking at more than 10,000 people between the ages of 35 to 74 years, the study looked at how eating too many unhealthy snacks affects brain power.

The researchers tested the participants’ memory, executive function and vocabulary.


The team also gave them food questionnaires to assess what they had eaten and drunk over the year before the survey, with foods being split into three groups including unprocessed or minimally processed, processed and ultra-processed foods.

Ultra-processed foods included any products and foods with additives not found in home preparations, such as flavourings, colours, sweeteners, and emulsifiers.

The results showed that those following this processed diet had a 28 percent faster rate of cognitive decline and their executive function scores also dropped 25 percent faster.

Furthermore, their memory scores also took the hit, falling by six percent, although the researchers insisted this was not a significant difference.

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The team suggested that cytokines — inflammatory proteins made by the body — could be behind the faster rate. Previous research also linked the chemicals to cognitive decline.

Doctor Natalia Gomes Goncalves, a study author, said people should limit the amount of ultra-processed foods they eat to help stave off dementia.

The researchers penned: “Neuroimaging studies have found that high consumption of a Western dietary pattern was related to a reduction in the left hippocampus and grey matter volume in cognitively healthy individuals.

“Another possible biological mechanism for the decline in executive function and global cognition seen in our study may be related to systemic inflammation caused by the consumption of [ultra-processed foods].

“Increased levels of circulating proinflammatory cytokines have been associated with cognitive decline.”

However, independent experts warned the study was unable to conclude whether eating more ultra-processed foods or less healthy foods was to blame.

Doctor Mellor said: “Although the idea of ultra-processed food is interesting, it is noticeable that those who consumed more of these foods, also consumed more calories.

“Although this study is interesting, it does not clearly show an association between ultra-processed food and cognition as the effect seen was small, and as for the younger participants.

“It is perhaps not the case that eating more ultra-processed foods is a problem — it may be more the case that they were eating less minimalist processed foods such as vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds and pulses.

“So, it does not really change how we should try to eat to maintain good brain function and cognition.”

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