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What You Eat Could Be Harming Your Brain

3 minutes to read

You know that what you eat directly influences how your body and brain feel and function in the short term. Your body and brain are like a car’s engine. High-quality fuel keeps the engine purring and allows it to rev up when needed. Low-quality food makes you feel sluggish and slow. Just imagine the difference in the way you feel when you eat a greasy cheeseburger and fries compared to a salad and bowl of veggies.

Now two major studies show a link between your diet and its long-term effect on your brain health. More specifically, these studies show the negative impact of ultra-processed foods on your brain. (1)

A study produced in Brazill involving 10,000 people concluded that there was a 28% faster rate of decline in memory and executive function with participants with a diet high in ultra-processed foods. (1)

A similar study published by the American Academy of Neurology involving over 72,000 participants over a 9-year period also clarified that ultra-processed foods are decidedly bad for your brain.

People whose diets consisted of at least 20% ultra-processed foods were 25% more likely to develop some form of dementia such as Alzheimer’s in their lifetimes. (2)

This same study also found that replacing just 10% of ultra-processed food with healthy food such as legumes, fresh fruit, fish, and milk may lower the risk for dementia by 19%. (2)

What Are Ultra-Processed Foods?

You’ve heard this advice for years, “east less processed food.” Does that mean that all processed foods are bad for you? 

Not necessarily; there is a range of processed food categories from minimally processed to ultra-processed. 

Minimally processed foods are whole foods with their nutrients and vitamins intact. The food is in its nearly natural state. Removing inedible parts, drying, roasting, or pasteurizing make them more suitable to store and safer to eat. Minimally processed foods include packaged nuts, dairy, raw meat, and cut fresh fruit.

“Processed” means food that has been altered from its natural state, usually by adding ingredients like sugar, salt, and oils. Examples of processed food include canned vegetables and fish, fruit canned in syrup, and freshly made bread. 

Ultra-processed foods have added ingredients such as salt, fat, artificial colors, preservatives, and sugar. Beyond those added ingredients, ultra-processed foods are mostly made from substances extracted from food such as starches, fats, artificial flavors, stabilizers, and more sugar. Ultra-processed foods include deli meats, boxed ramen noodles, boxed cereals, hot dogs, packaged sweets, salty snacks, fast food, and soft drinks.

According to Samantha Heller, senior clinical nutritionist of NYU Langone Health, it’s not surprising that ultra-processed foods are associated with an increased risk of dementia. Ultra-processed foods are designed to increase cravings and desire for these foods, crowding out healthier options. “The poor nutrient quality of these foods is a recipe for poor health both physically and mentally,” Heller says. (3)

Unfortunately, ultra-processed foods are ubiquitous in the American diet and are the main source of calories and sugar for many of us. Hopefully, knowing more about how these foods impact our brain health may help reshape our diets.

The Right Fuel for Your Brain

It’s obvious that a diet of fast food and candy doesn’t lead to a healthy physical life, and now we know an unhealthy diet filled with ultra-processed foods can also damage your brain health.

Conversely, feeding your brain with the right nutrients has been shown to support your brain health – increasing your mental clarity and energy, improving your memory, and even boosting your mood. (4)

Experts have concluded that a heart-healthy diet that includes whole foods, fresh vegetables, fruit, and lean protein is an effective way to help minimize the risk for dementia. 

But if learning new meal ideas and prep feels daunting, a quality brain health supplement like Stonehenge Health® Dynamic Brain™ is an easy way to give your brain the nutrients it needs.

Dynamic Brain™ provides potent dosages of essential vitamins, minerals, and amino acids that the brain needs every day. Dynamic Brain also contains cognition-enhancing ingredients like Bacopa, Choline, and Huperzine-A. (5-6)

When you have mental energy and clarity, you are more likely to have the energy to prepare a healthy meal instead of resorting to the bad stuff like take-out or frozen dinners. Plus, you’ll have the motivation to stick to your new, brain-healthy way of living.

1. “Ultra-processed food linked to cognitive decline – Brazilian study“ Juta Medical Brief |
2. Association of Ultraprocessed Food Consumption With Risk of Dementia, A Prospective Cohort, Huiping Li, Shu Li, Hongxi Yang, Yuan Zhang, Shunming Zhang, Yue Ma, Yabing Hou, Xinyu Zhang, Kaijun Niu, Yan Borne, Yaogang Wang, Neurology Jul 2022, 10.1212/WNL.0000000000200871; DOI: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000200871 |
4. Boost your memory by eating right, Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School |
5. Stough C, Lloyd J, Clarke J, Downey LA, Hutchison CW, Rodgers T, Nathan PJ. The chronic effects of an extract of Bacopa monniera (Brahmi) on cognitive function in healthy human subjects. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2001 Aug;156(4):481-4. doi: 10.1007/s002130100815. Erratum in: Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2015 Jul;232(13):2427. Dosage error in article text. PMID: 11498727. |
6. Mei Z, Zheng P, Tan X, Wang Y, Situ B. Huperzine A alleviates neuroinflammation, oxidative stress and improves cognitive function after repetitive traumatic brain injury. Metab Brain Dis. 2017 Dec;32(6):1861-1869. doi: 10.1007/s11011-017-0075-4. Epub 2017 Jul 26. PMID: 28748496. |

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