Longevity and Long-term Cognition via Avoiding Ultra-processed Foods

Ultra-processed foods are concoctions of various industrial ingredients (such as emulsifiers, thickeners, and artificial flavors) amalgamated into food products by a series of manufacturing processes. The intense industrial processes used to produce ultra-processed foods destroy the natural structure of the food ingredients and strip away many beneficial nutrients such as fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals. WebMD suggests that, when you order your breakfast sandwich, “ask for the propylene glycol (also used in fog machines and to make polyester) on the side”.

What is ultra-processed foods? Study shows that overconsumption could lead to cognitive decline | Daily Mail Online

Simply reducing your intake of ultra-processed foods may be a challenge. Ultra-processed foods are designed to be hyper-palatable – and together with persuasive marketing, this can make resisting them an enormous challenge for some people.

Eating ultra-processed foods is linked to high risk of heart (cardiovascular) disease and early death, in part because of all the added sugar. Processed foods cause people to eat more and gain weight. A processed food meal may decrease after-meal energy expenditure by nearly 50% compared with a whole food meal. The reason you can’t stop eating all those sugary, salty snacks: they’re designed to keep you coming back. Processed foods stimulate dopamine, a feel-good neurotransmitter that lights up your brain in similar ways that drugs do. Food companies know this … and they actually engineer their products to have this effect.

These foods are also not labelled as such on food packaging. The best way to identify them is by looking at their ingredients. Typically, things such as emulsifiers, thickeners, protein isolates, and other industrial-sounding products are a sign it’s an ultra-processed food.

Plant-based burgers are ultra-processed food. Synthetic flavorings and “natural flavorings” are bad news, also. Soft drinks, salty and sweet snacks, ice cream, sausage, deep-fried chicken, yogurt, canned tomatoes and baked beans, ketchup, mayonnaise, packaged guacamole and hummus, packaged bread, and flavored cereals are some examples of ultra-processed foods.

When You Only Eat Processed Food, This Is What Happens To Your Body

Real food is perishable.

Folic acid is added to ultra-processed foods like mass-produced bread and breakfast cereals. High dietary folic acid intake is associated with genomic instability. Folate from plant foods is not a genomic instability problem.

 Here is one study including 18,080 people that found that a diet high in fried foods was linked to lower scores in learning and memory.

This cross-sectional study of 886 participants (645 men and 241 women) aged 57–91 y found that those participants with the highest ultra-processed food consumption had almost twice the odds of having short telomeres compared with those with the lowest consumption.

Ultra-processed foods have been linked to a number of different health conditions, including a greater risk of obesity, colorectal cancer, and various chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, and dementia. If 20% of one’s diet is ultraprocessed food, the risk of cognitive decline increases. More than 73% of the U.S. food supply is ultraprocessed. Ultra-processed food → permanent memory loss. Those who consume the highest amounts of ultra-processed foods, such as soft drinks, chips, and cookies, may have a greater chance of developing dementia than those who consume the lowest amount.

Fructose consumption outside of fruits is a dementia threat

Dr. Mike Hansen shows why fructose, commonly found in processed foods, causes inflammation in the brain.

This data from the Framingham Offspring Study shows that fructose consumption was associated with a higher risk of all-cause dementia and AD dementia.

Sugar (sucrose), heavily present in many processed foods, is 1/2 fructose.


Many studies have found that poor diets can increase inflammation in the body, and that this is linked to higher risk of chronic diseases. Given that signs of inflammation were seen in participants of this Italian study who ate the most ultra-processed foods, this could suggest that inflammation may contribute to why ultra-processed foods increase disease risk.

Some researchers have theorized that ultra-processed foods increase inflammation because they are recognized by the body as foreign – much like an invading bacteria. So the body mounts an inflammatory response, which has been dubbed ‘fast food fever’. This increases inflammation throughout the body as a result. Chronic inflammation is strongly linked with an increased risk of colon cancer.

Research shows that other mechanisms – such as impaired kidney function and toxins in packaging – may also explain why ultra-processed foods cause so many dangerous health problems.

Processed food are more likely to be contaminated with polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFASs. Many PFASs appear to disrupt hormones and interfere with the immune system.

This study of 22 895 participants showed that  adults with the lowest quality diet, as measured using the FSAm-NPS dietary index (underpinning the Nutri-Score), and the highest ultra-processed food consumption (NOVA classification) were at the highest risk for all cause and cardiovascular mortality. A significant proportion of the higher mortality risk associated with an elevated intake of nutrient poor foods was explained by a high degree of food processing. Given that signs of inflammation were seen in participants of this Italian study who ate the most ultra-processed foods, this could suggest that inflammation may contribute to why ultra-processed foods increase disease risk.

From WebMD: Super-starchy and processed foods never make the “healthy” list. But did you know eating the two together can up your chances of having dementia? French researchers found people who developed dementia often paired processed meats – i.e. ham, pepperoni, and deli meats – with high carbs like potatoes, alcohol, and baked sweets. Meanwhile, people who stayed healthy ate their share of meat – but enjoyed it with fruits and veggies.

This study of men (n= 46 341) from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (1986-2014) and women (n=159 907) from the Nurses’ Health Study concluded that high consumption of total ultra-processed foods in men and certain subgroups of ultra-processed foods in men and women was associated with an increased risk of colorectal cancer.

Ultra-processed foods are harmful to gut health, cardiovascular health and mental health. Processed food manufacturers target children.

By Otto

I am a health enthusiast, engineer, and maker.

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