Poor diet versus cognitive function and hungry neurons

Poor diet causes cognitive decline. A new study published in JAMA Neurology suggests that more than 400-500 calories a day from ultra-processed foods such as burgers, chips and packaged cookies are enough to increase the risk of cognitive decline. The study involving 10,775 men and women in Brazil found that people eating more ultra-processed foods had a 28% faster cognitive decline than those who had eaten the smallest amount of these foods in the past eight years. The study included observational data and did not consider other factors affecting cognitive decline.

A recent report by the Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems Nutrition, an independent group of nutrition and health experts, suggests that developing countries where processed food sales are growing fastest are particularly at risk in the coming years. According to the report, more than 3 billion people do not have access to a healthy diet, leading to poor nutrition. Research shows that healthy dietary habits, such as those in the Mediterranean (eating fresh foods and limiting the intake of foods rich in processed fats, sugars and salt), help reduce cognitive decline and cardiovascular disease risk.

Hungry and angry have a lot in common, as hungry neurons may be a remnant from a time when people needed extra motivation to forage for food. What we eat or don’t eat affects our brains and emotions. Research over the past decade has increasingly shown that feelings of hunger are associated with negative emotions and that (non)eating can alter emotional states, and influence behaviour and decision-making.

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