Study discovers link between processed food consumption and increased risk of developing dementia

Dec 06, 2022
Source: Getty Images.

Although it may be a lot more tempting to enjoy a tasty slice of pizza as opposed to a healthy vegetable dish, the choice could be increasing your risk of cognitive decline.

Latest research has indicated that a diet high in ultra processed food (UPF) is linked to an increased risk of developing dementia.

In the Association Between Consumption of Ultraprocessed Foods and Cognitive Decline study researchers analysed 10, 775 individuals and found that higher consumption of ultra processed foods was linked to a higher rate of global and executive function decline after an 8 year follow up with participants.

Participants in the study who consumed higher amounts of ultra-processed food showed a 28 per cent faster rate of global cognitive decline and a 25 per cent faster rate of executive function decline compared to those who consumed less processed foods.

The researchers concluded that a higher percentage of consumption of ultra processed foods was associated with cognitive decline which support public health recommendations on reducing ultra processed food consumption due to their potential detrimental impact to cognitive function.

The authors of the study offered some explanation as to why such food items can contribute to cognitive decline.

“Neuroimaging studies have found that high consumption of a Western dietary pattern was related to a reduction in the left hippocampus and gray matter volume in cognitively healthy individuals,” the author said.

“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 UPF, because increased levels of circulating proinflammatory cytokines have been associated with cognitive decline.

“On the other hand, healthy dietary patterns were associated with higher grey and white matter volume, total brain volume, and Aβ42/40 ratio, as well as lower oxidative stress and inflammation, which could explain our findings that the percentage of daily energy from UPF was associated with cognitive decline in participants with a low healthy diet score, but not in those with a high healthy diet score.”

The researchers concluded that “limiting UPF consumption, particularly in middle-aged adults, may be an efficient form to prevent cognitive decline” but stressed that “future studies investigating the mechanism by which UPF may lead to cognitive decline are needed”.

The study follows recent groundbreaking research that has shown positive signs in decreasing the rate of cognitive decline among Alzheimer’s patients.

During the Clinical Trials on Alzheimer’s Disease Conference in San Francisco on Wednesday, November 30, pharmaceutical company, Eisai, presented data from their successful phase 3 clinical trial of the Alzheimer’s drug, lecanemab.

The results, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, demonstrated that the drug was able to slow the rate of decline in people’s memory and thinking as well as function over 18 months, and also helped people manage day-to-day activities.

The study, conducted by Eisai and Biogen, involved a total of 1795 participants in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, with 898 of the participants assigned to receive lecanemab and 897 to receive placebo.

Over 18 months, the rate of cognitive decline among participants slowed by 27 per cent when compared to those who received the placebo.

Chief Executive Officer at Biogen, Michel Vounatsos said the “announcement gives patients and their families hope that lecanemab, if approved, can potentially slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, and provide a clinically meaningful impact on cognition and function”.

“We want to thank the many patients who participated in this groundbreaking global study and want to acknowledge the clinical investigators who worked tirelessly to increase the enrollment of traditionally underrepresented populations,” Vounatsos said.

“As pioneers in neuroscience, we believe defeating this disease will require multiple approaches and treatment options, and we look forward to continuing the discussion about the significance of these findings with the patient, scientific, and medical communities.”

Director of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, Dr Susan Kohlhaas said the findings “represent a major step forward for dementia research and could herald a new era for people with Alzheimer’s disease”.

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

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