How Ultra-Processed Food Can Affect Your Brain Health

How Ultra-processed Food Can Affect Your Brain Health

A new study suggests that ultra-processed food like sausages, yoghurt, and fizzy drinks can affect the functionality of your brain by increasing the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s. Based on the data collected from more than 500,000 participants in a study enrolled in the UK, those who ate the most (814g per day) ultra-processed food had 42% more risk of dementia than those who consumed the least (225g per day).

These foods are high in sugar, fat, and salt and low in protein and fibre, essential nutrients to keep your body healthy. They include soft drinks, ice cream, yoghurt, sugary snacks, deep-fried chicken, sausages, bread, and flavoured cereals.

Ultra-processed food means highly processed food. They are processed to increase the life of food and make them better in appearance and taste. They can appease your taste buds but diminish the quality of food. However, researchers have found that people can whittle down the risk by carrying out some exercise or daily chores.

Fast food can make your brain foggy

So far, junk food seems to increase the risk of obesity. Still, a recent study has revealed that they can increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases, cholesterol, and dementia. Another study has revealed that highly processed food can impair your concentration level. The risk is high not just in adults but school children as well.

In order to see the impact of a high saturated fat diet on cognitive health, researchers at Ohio State University carried out an experiment on 51 women. They ate high saturated fat meals with 930 calories and 60gms of fat. The meal had a mixed content of fast food, including a burger with cheese and deep-fried fries.

Researchers found that their performance was worse after eating high saturated fat meals as compared to those who ate the same food but with low calories and fat amounts. The study found that the impact on concentration and memory may take hold sooner after taking a high saturated fat diet and can last longer. In fact, the impact may be much more pronounced than the effect of a low-saturated fat meal.

What did the study notice?

Studies have also pointed to the type of fat involved in meals. For instance, essential fatty acids like omega-3 help improve cognitive health and cardiovascular health.

When you eat foods high in saturated fats, your body will have different metabolic and inflammatory responses. It may impair concentration and memory and lead to poor decision-making power. Likewise, another study shows that eating too much food high in trans fat can increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by 70%.

According to a study conducted in Australia, a diet high in saturated fats can also impair the neuron functionality. Over time your neurons’ health will suffer, and as a result, you will be at a higher risk of developing dementia as you age.

The same study showed that people who rely on high saturated fats might have high blood sugar levels that cause the brain to shrink more rapidly. However, the risk is moderate with people having low blood sugar levels. You may not know the difference when you are young, but as you age, the repair mechanism stops working, and your brain feels much older.

Why are you trapped in the cycle of junk food?

Researchers have warned that the UK people are trapped in the cycle of junk food, taking a toll on their physical and mental health. To meet the government’s set health target, the consumption of fruit and veggies will have to go up by 30% and fibre consumption by 50%. However, at the same time, you will have to lower the consumption of meat by 30% and food high in saturated fat, salt and sugar by 20%.

You are not just prone to cognitive decline by consuming ultra-processed food but also at high risk of obesity. The UK has become the third largest country after the USA and Canada, with the fattest population.

The reason for being trapped in a bad diet is quite labyrinthine to understand. Laziness cannot be blamed for an upward trend in junk food. This is the way the food industry processes food to make it appear and taste better.

Your brain takes long time to send satiety signals

Junk food is high in fat and sugar, and when you eat such kind of food, you are automatically programmed to keep eating. Your brain takes a long time to send satiety signals than they do when you consume low-calorie food.

The demand for junk food is also very high, prompting manufacturers to keep investing more and more money to upgrade its taste. Processed food is not just convenient, but it is cheap as well. Therefore, people are switching to junk food from healthy food. Bad diets are common in low-wage group people.

Ingredients like emulsifiers, colouring, and flavour enhancers also make you eat more and more. They can make you addicted to junk food, and unfortunately, they are found in almost everything you buy, like biscuits, cakes, ice creams, readymade meals, etc.

According to a report by The National Institute of Diabetes, ultra-processed food is more likely to cause obesity than natural food, even if the fat content and calories are the same.

Being physically active could be the key

Studies have found that there is no clear evidence that states the exact reason why ultra-processed food is linked to dementia or poor cognitive health. But researchers believe that it could be because of a lack of nutrients such as protein and fibre or inflammation and high blood pressure and sugar caused by such type of food.

Exercise can lower the risk of catching dementia and other cognitive health problems by 30%. You do not need to go to the gym to keep your body in motion. A daily 30-minute walk can help prevent brain-related health issues.

Daily household chores can also whittle down the risk by 21% if it is not possible. Just visiting your friends or the local supermarket can also reduce the risk by 20%. The more you stay physically active, the lower the chances of developing dementia.

Most people do not realise the changes in their body responses at a young age, but as they age, they start facing some health complications. Soon medical bills rise, and then people end up taking out loans for the unemployed with bad credit.

The final word

It is essential to appreciate that the problem is serious and you should do something to tackle it as soon as possible. Ultra-processed food is more affordable, more convenient, and more scrumptious than healthy food, which makes us crave it, but you should try to resist.

Prefer eating fruits, vegetables, legumes and beans. A diet high in fibre can lower the craving for sugary food as you will remain satiated. Since you cannot get this food off your menu completely, you should try to reduce the intake.

Saturated fats and sugar are not too bad. Still, excess consumption can be an invitation to many diseases, from high blood pressure to high glucose levels and from obesity to dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Do not forget to stay active. You can burn calories by being in motion if you consume a meal high in fats and sugar.

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