An epidemic of obesity is prevalent in the world today, with one in three adults being overweight. While we eagerly seek out new diets to give us that sleek body we’re told we should want and crave medications to make the fat disappear, we don’t realize something else; we’ve been trained to eat unhealthy meals.
Our taste for junk food high in fat and sugar has been cultivated, and it alters the brain’s reward circuitry, driving an addiction-like behavioural phenotype of compulsive overeating. But it doesn’t stop at obesity.
There is growing evidence to suggest that there is an association between the consumption of ultraprocessed foods and cognitive decline. In a cohort study of 10,775 individuals, higher consumption of ultraprocessed foods was associated with a higher rate of global and executive function decline after a median follow-up of 8 years.
Ultraprocessed foods often contain additives such as artificial flavors, colors, and sweeteners. They are typically high in calories, fat, and sugar. But it’s not simply these foods, but how our body processes food and our gut microbiota.
Research is pointing to the relationship between our gut and neurodegenerative disorders with recent studies denoting an association between Alzheimer’s and changes in the gut microbiome. The belief is that there is a link between how high fats and simple carbohydrates are processed in the gut resulting in changes in cognition.
The idea that what we eat is mind-altering has been explored for over a decade, but it is now coming to the fore. The exact pathways between impaired cognition and food choices are still under consideration.
The evidence related to neurologic disorders and emotional disturbances, such as depression, has established a gut-brain axis interaction (GBA) at work. Both healthy and unhealthy diets provide meaningful, previously unknown connections in our nervous system and our brain’s functioning. Who thought a life of hot dog eating could cause dementia? Scientists now see how careful food selection may ward off cognitive decline.
When you are next tempted to go for those highly processed goodies, do your brain a favor and pass them up. Practicing this type of personal food-selection discipline will be well worth it in your future functioning.