Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Limiting Consumption of Ultra-processed Foods May Help Slow Cognitive Decline, Study Suggests

People who consume more than 20% of their total daily calories in ultra-processed foods may experience faster cognitive decline than adults who consume fewer ultra-processed foods daily, a study published yesterday in JAMA Neurology suggests. Ultra-processed foods include cookies and cakes, diet and regular soda, processed meats, frozen meals, and more.

“Our findings are in line with previous studies linking consumption of [ultra-processed foods] and adverse health outcomes, such as the increased risk of overweight and obesity, metabolic syndrome, cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and all-cause mortality,” wrote Natalia Gomes Gonçalves, Ph.D., of the University of São Paulo Medical School in Brazil and colleagues.

The researchers analyzed data collected from participants in the Brazilian Longitudinal Study of Adult Health (ELSA-Brasil study). Public servants aged 35 to 74 years from six Brazilian cities were recruited for the study and followed up in three waves, approximately four years apart, from 2008 to 2017. Upon enrollment in ELSA-Brasil, these participants were asked about their food and drink consumption over the last 12 months using a validated Food Frequency Questionnaire. The researchers classified the participants’ consumption of foods and beverages into three categories, according to the extent of industrial processing:

  • Unprocessed or minimally processed foods (for example, fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables and grains) and processed culinary ingredients (for example, table sugar, oils, and salt)
  • Processed foods, which are manufactured using unprocessed or minimally processed foods (for example, canned fruits and smoked meat)
  • Ultra-processed foods, which are formulations of processed culinary ingredients with food additives not used in home preparations, such as flavors, colors, sweeteners, emulsifiers, and other substances

The ELSA-Brasil study participants received multiple cognitive assessments over the follow-up period. These tests included evaluating the participants’ immediate recall, late recall, word recognition, and semantic and phonemic verbal fluency.

Gomes Gonçalves and colleagues focused their analysis on 10,775 adults (mean age of 52 years, 53% White, and nearly 57% with at least a college degree). After a median follow-up of eight years, participants who reported consumption of ultra-processed foods of more than 19.9% of daily calories at baseline had a 28% faster rate of global cognitive decline compared with those who reported consumption of ultra-processed foods less than 19.9% of daily calories, Gomes Gonçalves and colleagues reported.

“Limiting [ultra-processed food] consumption, particularly in middle-aged adults, may be an efficient form to prevent cognitive decline,” Gomes Gonçalves and colleagues wrote. “Future studies investigating the mechanism by which [ultra-processed food] may lead to cognitive decline are needed, as well as confirmation of our findings in other longitudinal studies and randomized clinical trials.”

For related information, see the Psychiatric Services article “Nutrition and Exercise for Wellness and Recovery: A Randomized Controlled Trial of a Community-Based Health Intervention.”

(Image: iStock/Moyo Studio)

Meet-the-Candidate Town Halls: Daily Through December 8

Learn more about the candidates in APA’s 2023 election through live, virtual meet-the-candidate town halls this week. The Wednesday town hall will feature candidates for Area 5 Trustee (elected by Area 5 members only). The town halls will begin at noon ET and run 30 to 60 minutes. In the meantime, hear directly from the candidates by watching brief videos posted on APA’s website.





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