Eating a hamburger and fries or two sausages a day may increase Alzheimer’s risk, scientists behind a large study have found.
Brazilian researchers who followed 10,000 people for a decade found that those who got a quarter of their calories from processed foods — including soft drinks and nuggets — had a 28 percent greater cognitive decline than those who had less.
They called on people to cook for themselves more and consume whole foods such as grains, vegetables and fish more regularly. About 58 percent of the average American diet consists of processed foods, while in Canada it is as high as 48 percent, according to studies.
High sugar, salt and fat content in the processed foods was the cause of the faster cognitive decline because it caused inflammation, experts said. They added that this is a clear sign that people need to cook for themselves at home more often.
Brazilian scientists said the foods could be harmful because they contain a large amount of sugar, salt and fat – which causes inflammation
What should I eat to prevent Alzheimer’s?
Numerous studies suggest that what people eat may affect their risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
The National Institute on Aging says some diets — such as those high in processed foods — can increase a person’s risk of suffering from the disease.
But others can actually have a protective effect. In particular, researchers point to the Mediterranean diet — rich in fruits, vegetables and fish and low in red meat and eggs — as an important way to reduce risk.
The NIH says there’s no confirmed evidence to date that eating more of a particular food can help protect someone from Alzheimer’s disease.
But a number of studies have examined whether certain foods, including blueberries, strawberries and leafy greens, may provide protection against the disease.
These foods have been selected for their anti-inflammatory properties, which are believed to help reduce the risk of forming dangerous proteins.
Recent articles have included one suggesting that eating a daily serving of spinach or kale reduced the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
While a second found that people who regularly ate fish also had higher cognitive function later in life than those who didn’t.
Source: National Institutes of Aging
In the study – presented today at the 2022 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in San Diego, California — scientists tracked 10,000 people from 2008 to 2019.
They were evenly distributed by gender, aged 51 on average and living in six Brazilian cities.
Each consumed an average of about 785 calories from processed foods per day, or 27 percent of their diet. Three quarters got more than 20 percent of their calories from processed foods, and some got up to three quarters of their calories this way.
Processed foods were defined as “industrial forums” of food substances (oils, fats, sugars, starches and protein isolates) containing little or no whole foods and typically containing flavourings, colorings, emulsifiers and other cosmetic additives. This includes fries, burgers, ice creams, sweets, soft drinks, among others.
Each participant completed a questionnaire about their dietary intake at the beginning and end of the study.
They also completed tests on delayed word recall, word recognition and verbal fluency to measure changes in their cognition.
The results showed that those who ate the most processed foods — more than a quarter of the daily calories — had a 28 percent faster cognitive decline than those who ate the least.
They also had a 25 percent faster decline in executive function — the area of the brain involved in making decisions and processing information.
It also revealed that those who ate the most ultra-processed foods were more likely to be young, female, white, have a higher level of education and never smoked.
Dr Natalia Goncalves, a pathologist at the University of Sao Paulo who led the study, told DailyMail.com that processed foods are likely to accelerate cognitive decline because they are full of sugar, fats and salts.
She said this could cause “inflammatory processes” or lesions in the brain — which could increase the rate of decline.
dr. Rudy Tanzi, a neurologist at Harvard Medical School who was not involved in the study, said processed foods are likely a risk because they are “usually very high in sugar, salt and fat.”
“All of these promote systemic inflammation,” she told CNN‘perhaps the greatest threat to healthy aging in the body and brain’.
Men should eat an average of 2,500 calories per day, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, while women should eat 2,000 calories.
To get a quarter of the diet from processed foods would be up to 500 calories per day.
That’s equivalent to one hamburger and fries (about 700 calories), or two four-pound sausages (about 800 calories), says the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
dr. Claudia Suemoto, a geriatric expert also involved in the study, said the diet in Brazil was not much different from that in Western countries.
She added: “People need to know that they have to cook more and prepare their own food from scratch. I know we say we don’t have time, but it really doesn’t take that much time.
“And it’s worth it because you’re going to protect your heart and protect your brain from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.” That’s the message to take home: stop buying things that are super processed.’