‘Alarming’: 5 popular foods can surprisingly cause memory loss – almost everyone eats them

Hochverarbeitete Lebensmittel, wie Fertigpizza

For many of us, one thing is particularly important when it comes to eating: it should be quick, convenient and tasty. Highly processed foods offer exactly that in everyday life, they can be prepared in the meantime and in a short time and provide a feeling of satiety, at least for a short time. They are not known to be healthy. The fact that in addition to weight gain, they can also lead to dementia is a new scientific finding.

Beware of highly processed foods? That’s what the research says

Researchers at Ohio State University have found a possible correlation between highly processed foods and the development of memory loss and dementia in experiments with rats. According to the 2021 study published in Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, the animals were divided into two groups — a young cohort and an old cohort — and fed the appropriate food.

After four weeks, the older rats failed a battery of cognitive tests. They demonstrated partial memory loss. They didn’t remember where they had just been or forgot signs of fear in the face of danger. Such reactions could not be observed in the group of young rats, according to a statement from the university.

Highly processed foods used in the experiment included those that are often intended for long-term food storage:

  • potato crisps
  • other snacks
  • frozen instant pasta
  • frozen pizza
  • Charcuterie charcuterie with preservatives

The researcher classifies the effects as “alarming”.

Ruth Barrientos, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral health and one of the study’s lead authors, explains the seriousness of the current findings:

“The fact that we are seeing these effects so quickly is somewhat alarming. The results suggest that eating processed foods can produce large and steep memory deficits – and with age, rapid memory decline is more likely progress to a neurodegenerative disease such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Ruth Barrientos, Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health (Department of Behavioral Medicine, Ohio State University)

Prevention is still possible, study finds

As the researchers discovered at the same time in their study, the observed effects can be mitigated by the addition of the omega-3 fatty acid DHA. This should prevent memory loss and also reduce the accompanying inflammatory effects almost completely. Barrientos’ recommendation for action is therefore:

“(…) maybe we can limit processed foods in our diets and increase the consumption of foods rich in omega-3 fatty acid DHA, thereby preventing or slowing down the process.”

Ruth Barrientos, Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health (Department of Behavioral Medicine, Ohio State University)

What are highly processed foods?

Highly processed foods often contain many more ingredients and can be eaten directly with or without heating. Also, the products contain various additives, such as flavorings, colorings and preservatives. Some of them, like sodium nitrite (E250) from salted sausages, can even form carcinogens in the body.

In general, highly processed foods should be eaten in manageable amounts. Their nutrient density is usually very low, while the calorie content is often very high. There are also a lot of fats, carbohydrates, salt and sugar. They provide little protein and satiating fiber. If there is a lack of regular exercise at the same time, they can promote overweight and obesity, as Eatsmarter reports.

Sources: Brain, Behavior and Immunity: “Dietary DHA prevents cognitive impairment and inflammatory gene expression in aged male rats fed a diet enriched with refined carbohydrates”, Ohio State University, Eatsmarter

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