Study links ultra-processed foods to dementia and cognitive decline

McDonalds
A McDonald's Quarter Pounder, top right, and Double Quarter Pound burger are shown with fresh beef Tuesday, March 6, 2018, in Atlanta. (Mike Stewart/AP)

Study links ultra-processed foods to dementia and cognitive decline

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Ultra-processed foods might go easy on a person’s taste buds and wallet, but a new study now suggests they are linked to dementia and cognitive decline.

The study, titled “Association Between Consumption of Ultraprocessed Foods and Cognitive Decline,” was published Monday in JAMA Neurology and reported that people who consume ultra-processed foods as 20% of their daily calories could be at a greater risk for cognitive decline.

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Pizza, hot dogs, cookies, cakes, doughnuts, candy, and ice cream are all examples of ultra-processed foods, which are defined as “industrial formulations of food substances [oils, fats, sugars, starch, and protein isolates] that contain little or no whole foods and typically include flavorings, colorings, emulsifiers, and other cosmetic additives,” per the study.

If a person consumes 2,000 calories a day, 20% is 400 calories, and a McDonald’s Big Mac comes in at at least 560 calories.

“In a cohort study of 10 ,775 individuals, higher consumption of [ultra-processed] foods was associated with a higher rate of global and executive function decline after a median follow-up of 8 years,” the study reported.

The individuals, ages 35 to 74, were followed for a decade and questioned multiple times in order to gauge any changes to their mental state while reporting their dietary habits.

Tests included those evaluating word recall, verbal fluency, and word recognition.

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“These findings suggest that limiting consumption of [ultra-processed] food could be associated with reduced cognitive decline in middle-aged and older adults,” the study read.

“A higher percentage of daily energy consumption of [ultra-processed] foods was associated with cognitive decline among adults from an ethnically diverse sample. These findings support current public health recommendations on limiting [ultra-processed] food consumption because of their potential harm to cognitive function.”

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