Brain Health

How does UPF consumption impact the risk for cognitive impairment?

Dr Frank Lipman
Dec 16, 2022

How do ultra-processed foods (UPF) impact dementia risk? UPF’s are made from substances derived from foods, such as hydrogenated fats, starches, and added sugars. They also often have added additives (colors, flavors, etc). Here are some examples: soft drinks, fast food, hot dogs, packaged convenience foods, cakes, and salty snacks. This study investigated the impact of the consumption of UPF on dementia risk.

Study Summary

The study, which analyzed the data of 72,083 people aged 55+ without dementia, found that:

  • Those who consume the highest amounts of UPF (soft drinks, chips, cookies etc) may be at an increased risk for dementia, compared to those who have a lower UPF intake.
  • For those with the lowest consumption, UPF made up 9% of the diet.
  • For those with the highest consumption, UPF made up 28% of the diet.
  • Researchers associated the substitution of ultra-processed food for unprocessed or minimally processed food with a lower risk for dementia.
  • For each 10% increase in daily amount of UPF’s consumed, the risk for dementia rose 25%.
  • Each 10% substitution of UPF’s with unprocessed or minimally processed food, resulted in a 19% reduced risk of dementia.

The Hearty Take

Although this study does not provide evidence that UPF’s cause dementia, it does suggest that a poor diet rich in UPF’s puts us at an increased risk of dementia! By substituting UPF’s for processed foods, we may be able to reduce our risk for dementia. Whether or not you are concerned about dementia risk, there is as much consensus as we see in the world of health that UPF is not healthy and it should be limited or eliminated. Next time you reach for that packaged food item, try a serving of veggies or fruit instead! These small changes will add up.

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