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Diet Awareness Brain and Mental Performance Cognitive

Ultra Processed Foods Tied To Stroke And Cognitive Decline

1 month, 3 weeks ago

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Posted on May 27, 2024, 6 p.m.

According to a new study published in Neurology, people who eat more ultra-processed foods and beverages may have a higher risk of cognitive decline and experiencing a stroke than those who consume fewer processed foods and beverages. 

Processed foods and beverages are typically high in added sugars, salt, and fat while being low in protein and fiber. Examples of these include ice cream, ketchup, mayonnaise, flavored cereals, soft drinks, candy, chips, and fast food. Examples of unprocessed or minimally processed foods include fruits and vegetables, and lean/simple cuts of beef or chicken. 

“While a healthy diet is important in maintaining brain health among older adults, the most important dietary choices for your brain remain unclear,” said study author W. Taylor Kimberly, MD, PhD, of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. “We found that increased consumption of ultra-processed foods was associated with a higher risk of both stroke and cognitive impairment, and the association between ultra-processed foods and stroke was greater among Black participants.”

This study involved 30,239 people aged 45 years or older who were followed for an average of 11 years who provided information on what they ate or drank to calculate how much ultra-processed foods they ate and place them into one of four groups ranging from the least amount of processed foods to the most. 14,175 participants were evaluated for cognitive decline and 20,243 were evaluated for the risk of stroke at the beginning of the study. During the study period, 768 participants were diagnosed with cognitive impairment and 1,108 had a stroke.

In the cognitive group, of those who developed cognitive impairment, those who developed memory and thinking problems 25% of their diet was found to be comprised of ultra-processed foods, compared to the 24.6% who did not develop cognitive problems. After adjusting for various factors, the researchers found that a 10% increase in the amount of ultra-processed foods eaten was associated with a 16% higher risk of cognitive impairment. While eating more unprocessed or minimally processed food was linked to a 12% lower risk of cognitive impairment. 

In the stroke group, of those who experienced a stroke, 25.4% of their diet consisted of ultra-processed foods compared to the 25.1% who did not experience a stroke. After adjusting for various factors, a greater intake of ultra-processed foods was linked to an 8% increased risk of stroke, and a greater intake of unprocessed or minimally processed foods was linked to a 9% decrease in the risk of stroke. 

“Our findings show that the degree of food processing plays an important role in overall brain health,” Kimberly said. “More research is needed to confirm these results and to better understand which food or processing components contribute most to these effects.”

As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before changing your wellness routine. This article is not intended to provide a medical diagnosis, recommendation, treatment, or endorsement. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. 

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