Researchers at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference recently presented findings suggesting that diets high in ultra-processed foods lead to cognitive decline in older adults.
Representatives from the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil co-authored the study. They tracked the cognitive performance of thousands of aging Brazilians. Participants who ate ultra-processed foods like white bread, TV dinners, and sodas showed obvious sings of more rapid cognitive decline.
The study has not been peer-reviewed, yet, but the findings are not surprising for anyone who has kicked the processed foods from their diet. Whole foods may not taste as good as salty, sugary, processed foods, but the feeling of eating better far outweighs the fleeting satisfaction of trashy food. It’s no surprise, really, that a lifetime of choosing poor ingredients instead of optimized health eventually leads to problems later in life.
And which country likes to indulge a daily routine of bad eating choices? America, the land of the free, of course.
“Ultra-processed foods make up more than half of American diets,” said Percy Griffin, PhD, the director of scientific engagement for the Alzheimer’s Association, in a statement provided to Nexstar. “It’s troubling but not surprising to see new data suggesting these foods can significantly accelerate cognitive decline.”
Choosing ultra-processed foods does not save money like some people think
Major media companies generally like to blame socioeconomic factors for poor food choices. But cooking healthy, whole foods like fruits, vegetables, and animals proteins often come out cheaper over time than regularly buying “cheap” processed foods to save money.
Sarah Lovegreen, the vice president of the Alzheimer’s Association of Greater Missouri, told Nexstar’s KTVI that Americans are putting themselves at “greater risk” by filling their plates with processed foods.
“I know that a lot of people are looking for that magic bullet to avoid Alzheimer’s disease and other chronic conditions, and what we’re learning is really the best way to avoid it is finding this balance of healthy eating, great movement, staying socially engaged, [and] avoiding smoking or alcohol, those things that we know are detrimental,” Lovegreen said.
Researchers also made sure to stress that Alzheimer’s can still develop despite a “healthy” diet. As we’ve discussed in previous articles, though, the state of Alzheimer’s research is lacking integrity at the moment. Studies like this one from Brazil that stop mystifying the disease and start encouraging basic, fundamental changes to diet are important for rebuilding public trust.