Ultra-processed foods linked to faster cognitive decline, Yale study finds

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A study conducted by scientists from Yale University has found a strong link between the consumption of ultra-processed foods and accelerated cognitive decline.

The research, led by Rafael Perez-Escamilla and presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference, adds to the growing body of evidence highlighting the potential dangers of a diet rich in ultra-processed foods.

What are Ultra-Processed Foods?

Ultra-processed foods include items with very few whole ingredients and often contain flavorings, colorings, or other additives.

They typically require little preparation and are easy to consume because they don’t generally lead to the same level of satiety as whole foods like fruits, vegetables, beans, potatoes, eggs, seafood, or meat.

These foods can range from instant noodles, sugary drinks, and frozen meals to bread, crackers, cookies, fried snacks, cream cheese, ice cream, candy, soda, and hot dogs.

The Study and Its Findings

In their research, the Yale team examined the diets and cognition of 10,000 middle-aged and older people.

They found that participants who derived 20% or more of their daily calories from ultra-processed foods experienced a significantly faster cognitive decline over a period of 6 to 10 years, compared to people who consumed fewer processed foods.

Context and Implications

Previous studies have linked ultra-processed food consumption to a variety of health problems, including obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and various forms of cancer.

Some research has even suggested a correlation between such foods and increased risk of dementia.

The current findings reinforce these concerns and draw attention to the potential cognitive risks associated with a diet heavy in ultra-processed foods.

Alarmingly, many such foods can be misleadingly marketed as healthy options, despite their potential health implications.


The study underscores the need for increased public awareness about the potential harms of ultra-processed foods, not only in terms of physical health but also cognitive function.

It emphasizes the importance of making dietary choices informed by comprehensive understanding of the impacts of different food types on health.

More research is needed to fully understand the mechanisms behind the link between ultra-processed foods and cognitive decline, as well as to develop strategies for reducing the prevalence and impact of these foods in our diets.

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