10,000 subjects were followed for 10 years and asked about their eating habits. The subjects also took cognitive tests up to three times a year, including memory tests and word recognition tests, to monitor their mental abilities such as learning, thinking, reasoning, remembering, problem-solving, decision-making and attention.
Those who ate 20% or more of their daily calories from ultra-processed foods had a 28% faster rate of cognitive decline, and a 25% faster rate of executive function decline, compared to the subjects in the study who ate the least amount of processed foods. In other words, someone following a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet who consumed 400 calories from frozen tray meals, processed meats (hotdogs, lunch meat), white bagged bread, snack cakes, breakfast cereals/bars and sodas each day saw a faster rate of cognitive decline.
There is an important point in the study: If the overall quality of a subject’s diet is otherwise very high (meaning they ate a lot of unprocessed whole foods like fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins), then the association between ultra-processed foods and dementia disappeared. So the good news is, you can counter consuming ultra-processed foods by eating whole foods like fresh or frozen produce, lean meats and proteins.
“Limiting ultra-processed food consumption, particularly in middle-aged adults, may be an efficient form to prevent cognitive decline,” researchers wrote in their findings published in JAMA Neurology December 2022.
If you want to work on your lifestyle, diet and overall health, Dr Williams is available to help you start your journey today.