December 5 (UPI) — An association exists between people who get a higher percentage of their daily energy from ultra-processed foods and suffer cognitive decline, according to a large study with long-term follow-up published Monday.
Overall, 58% of calories consumed in the US, 57% of British diets, 48% of Canadians and 30% of Brazilian diets come from ultra-processed foods, the scientists said.
This includes sweet and savory snacks, confectionery, breakfast cereals, ice cream, sugary drinks, processed meats and frozen ready-to-eat meals.
Study participants at the higher end of ultra-processed food consumption—for whom the percent daily energy contribution from these foods was greater than 19.9 percent—showed a rate of overall cognitive decline 28% faster and a 25% faster rate of cognitive decline. executive function – the mental skills used every day to learn, work and manage daily life.
This is compared to people who did not eat ultra-processed foods or, if they did, remained below the 19.9% threshold over a follow-up period of an average of eight years.
The results were published in JAMA Neurology.
While consumption of ultra-processed foods has been associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, and obesity, few studies have investigated the association between these foods and cognitive decline in low-income countries. raised.
Thus, a team of researchers led by Natalia Gomes Gonçalves, from the Department of Pathology of the Faculty of Medicine of the University of São Paulo in São Paulo, Brazil, set out to study the association between the consumption of foods ultra-transformed and cognitive decline in 10,775 participants in the Brazilian Adult Health Longitudinal Study.
The study involved an ethnically diverse sample of civil servants, aged 35 to 74, who were recruited from six Brazilian cities.
Food and beverage consumption over 12 months was assessed at baseline using a standardized food frequency questionnaire. The frequency of consumption of each item was transformed into grams per day, and then the foods were classified, according to the extent of industrial processing used to make them, into one of three food groups.
The first group included unprocessed or minimally processed foods, such as fresh, dried or frozen fruits or vegetables, cereals, meat, fish and milk, which had undergone minimal processing such as grinding, roasting, pasteurization or freezing. It also included processed culinary ingredients, such as table sugar, oils, and salt.
The second group included processed foods, including canned fruit, artisan bread and cheese, and cured, smoked, or salted meat or fish.
The third group included ultra-processed foods. The scientists said they were formulations of several ingredients from other food groups, as well as food additives not used in home preparation, “such as flavors, colors, sweeteners, emulsifiers and other substances used to mask undesirable qualities of the final product or mimic the sensory qualities of culinary preparations” from unprocessed or minimally processed foods.
The scientists looked at the participants’ cognitive performance over a median follow-up period of eight years, as well as their level of consumption of ultra-processed foods.
People were tested up to three times every four years, testing memory through tests of immediate recall, delayed recall and the Consortium’s recognition word list to establish a registry for Alzheimer’s disease.
Researchers tested people’s executive function using tools such as fluency tests.
“These findings support current public health recommendations on limiting the consumption of ultra-processed foods due to their potential harmful effects on cognitive function,” the authors concluded.
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