It’s what keeps your organs running smoothly and your heart pumping blood and air.
That’s why eating right is critical for maintaining peak brain function.
Some meals increase the risk of dementia and affect memory and mood negatively.
It is estimated that by the year 2030, more than 65 million individuals around the world would be living with dementia.
You can lower your risk of developing the disease by eliminating certain foods from your diet.
The 5 most detrimental foods to your brain health are exposed in this article.
1. Sugary Drinks
Soda, sports drinks, energy drinks, and fruit juice are all examples of sugary drinks.
Consuming large quantities of sugary drinks has detrimental effects on mental health as well as on physical health, including increased waist circumference, increased risk of type 2 diabetes, and increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
Consumption of sugary beverages in excess raises the risk of type 2 diabetes, and diabetes is associated with a higher likelihood of acquiring Alzheimer’s disease.
Furthermore, even in those who do not have diabetes, having a high blood sugar level is associated with an increased risk of dementia.
High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is a common sweetener used in many soft drinks, with a sugar content of 55% fructose and 45% glucose.
Obesity, hypertension, abnormal blood lipids, diabetes, and vascular dysfunction have all been linked to excessive fructose consumption. These features of metabolic syndrome have been linked to a higher future risk of dementia.
High consumption of fructose has been linked in animal studies to insulin resistance in the brain, impaired cognitive performance, memory loss, and neuronal death.
High-sugar diets have been shown to increase brain inflammation and decrease memory in rats. Further, rats fed a diet containing 11% HFCS fared worse than those on a diet containing the same amount of ordinary sugar.
Another study discovered an increased risk of metabolic problems and memory deficits in rats when they were fed a high-fructose diet.
Although human studies are needed to confirm the findings, they do imply that consuming a lot of sugary drinks may have harmful consequences on the brain.
Water, unsweetened iced tea, vegetable juice, and unsweetened dairy products are some alternatives to sugary drinks.
2. Refined Carbs
Sugars and highly refined grains like white flour are examples of refined carbs.
It’s important to keep in mind that the glycemic index of these carbohydrates tends to be high (GI). This implies that they are metabolized rapidly in the body, leading to an immediate increase in blood sugar and insulin.
In addition, the glycemic load of these foods is usually quite high, especially when consumed in big quantities (GL). The GL indicates the amount by which a single serving of a food will increase blood sugar levels.
Both high glycemic load and high glycemic index foods have been linked to cognitive decline.
Memory impairment in both children and adults has been linked to a single meal with a high glycemic load.
Another study indicated that healthy college students who ate more fat and refined sugar had worse recall.
The hippocampus, a brain area involved in both memory and the ability to recognize when one is full or hungry, has been shown to be inflamed in those who suffer from depression.
Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia share a link to inflammation as a shared risk factor.
One study, for instance, looked at seniors whose diets consisted of more than 58% carbs. According to the results of the study, their chance of developing cognitive impairment or dementia was nearly double that of the general population.
It’s possible that carbohydrates have additional mental impacts. One study showed that kids between the ages of 6 and 7 who ate a lot of refined carbohydrates had poorer scores on tests of nonverbal ability.
However, it was unclear from this study whether or not a diet high in refined carbohydrates was actually to blame for the observed drop in performance.
Vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains are all examples of foods that contain healthy carbohydrates with a lower glycemic index. Standard foods’ GI and GL values are available in this database.
3. Foods High in Trans Fats
Trans fats are an unsaturated fat that has been linked to a decline in mental health.
Animal items like meat and dairy have trans fats in them naturally, but this isn’t a big deal. Hydrogenated vegetable oils, also known as trans fats, are the culprit.
You can find these artificial trans fats in things like shortening, margarine, icing, snack foods, and pre-made cakes and cookies.
Research has shown that persons who consume more trans fats have a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, have impaired memory, have smaller brain volumes, and experience cognitive decline.
However, not all research has identified a link between eating trans fats and poor brain function. Trans fats should be avoided, nevertheless. They negatively impact many other elements of health, such as heart health and inflammation.
Saturated fat research is contradictory. Saturated fat intake has been linked to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease in three observational studies, although the converse was shown in a fourth.
It’s possible that certain people in the test populations were predisposed to developing the condition because of the ApoE4 gene. But there has to be more study done on this subject.
A study involving 38 women indicated that the women who ingested more saturated fat compared to unsaturated fat also fared lower on tests of memory and recognition.
Therefore, it is possible that not only the kind of fat in the diet is significant, but also the ratios of fats in the diet.
The consumption of foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, for instance, has been linked to a decreased risk of cognitive impairment in older adults. Omega-3s have a protective effect due to their ability to boost the secretion of anti-inflammatory chemicals in the brain, especially in the elderly.
Eat more fish, chia seeds, flax seeds, and walnuts to get more omega-3 fats in your diet.
4. Highly Processed Foods
Highly processed foods are typically heavy in sugar, added fats, and salt.
Chips, candy, quick noodles, microwave popcorn, store-bought sauces, and premade meals are all examples of convenience foods.
Foods like these tend to be high in calories but lacking in other nutrients. These are the kinds of foods that contribute to weight increase, which has been linked to a decline in brain health.
Damage to brain tissue has been linked to increased visceral fat, as seen in a study of 243 persons. Another study including 130 patients demonstrated a substantial loss of brain tissue even in the preliminary stages of metabolic syndrome.
Degenerative diseases and mental decline have been linked to the nutrient makeup of processed foods in the Western diet.
52 participants were studied and it was observed that a poor diet high in unhealthy foods led to decreased brain tissue and lower sugar metabolism. Certain of these are considered to be diagnostic indicators of Alzheimer’s disease.
A second study with over 18,000 participants indicated that a diet heavy in fried foods and processed meats is linked to worse memory and learning.
Another major study involving 5,038 participants also revealed similar outcomes. Inflammation and a more rapid deterioration in cognitive abilities over a decade were both linked to a diet strong in red meat, processed meat, baked beans, and fried foods.
Rats fed a high-fat, high-sugar diet for eight months exhibited reduced learning ability and detrimental effects to brain plasticity in research with this experimental design. Another study discovered that the blood-brain barrier was compromised in high-fat-diet-fed rats.
The blood-brain barrier is a membrane that separates the brain from the rest of the body’s circulatory system. By obstructing the passage of harmful compounds, it aids in brain protection.
Consumption of processed meals may have deleterious effects on brain health by inhibiting the synthesis of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF)
This molecule is essential for long-term memory, learning, and the development of new neurons and can be found in different regions of the brain, including the hippocampus. Because of this, any kind of reduction may have unintended consequences for these features.
Fresh, whole foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, meat, and fish can help you stay away from processed options. Another defense against dementia is a diet similar to that of the Mediterranean.
Many sugar-free items include aspartame, an artificial sweetener.
It’s a popular choice for those with diabetes or who are attempting to cut back on sugar. Many commercial items that aren’t aimed for diabetics also include it.
But there is some evidence linking this common sweetener to behavioral and cognitive issues, and the studies aren’t without controversy.
Phenylalanine, methanol, and aspartic acid are the building blocks from which aspartame is created.
Phenylalanine can enter the brain through the bloodstream and may interfere with neurotransmitter synthesis. Aspartame is a chemical stressor that may make the brain more susceptible to oxidative stress.
When aspartame is ingested in large quantities, adverse effects on learning and emotion have been found, leading some experts to speculate that these variables are to blame.
The results of a high-aspartame diet were examined in one study. For eight days, participants ingested 11 milligrams of aspartame per kilogram of body weight (25 milligrams per pound).
They ended up being more irritated, depressed, and having lower exam scores towards the end of the study.
Artificially sweetened soft drink consumers were also more likely to suffer a stroke or develop dementia, according to another study.
These results are consistent with those of some mouse and rat experiments.
Studies in mice indicated that chronic aspartame consumption reduced learning and memory capacity and raised brain oxidative stress. A second study discovered that chronic use changes the brain’s antioxidant level.
However, these studies typically used massive doses administered only once, rather than repeated administrations over a longer period of time, ruling out the possibility of long-term effects in animals. According to some sources, rodents like mice and rats have a 60-fold lower sensitivity to phenylalanine than humans do.
Despite these results, aspartame is still generally accepted as a safe sweetener for daily use of 18–23 milligrams per pound of body weight (40–50 milligrams per kilogram).
A person of normal weight (150 pounds or 68 kilograms) should limit their daily aspartame consumption to no more than 3,400 milligrams, as recommended here.
A standard 12-ounce (340-ml) can of diet soda contains roughly 180 mg of aspartame, whereas a packet of sweetener contains about 35 mg. There may be a disparity in prices between different manufacturers.
Furthermore, many studies have found no negative consequences from consuming aspartame.
You can avoid it if you choose, though, by eliminating all added sugars and artificial sweeteners from your diet.