Professor names Kit Kat bars as contributor to “global cognitive decline”

by Judy George, Deputy Managing Editor, MedPage Today December 5, 2022

MEDPAGE TODAY – Middle-age people who ate more ultra-processed foods were modestly more likely to have subsequent cognitive decline, a prospective study in Brazil showed.

These foods include:

  • white bread,
  • candy bars,
  • cookies,
  • frozen meals,
  • and soda

Adults who got 20% or more of their daily calories from  ultra-processed foods (UPFs) showed a 28% faster rate of global cognitive decline over 8 years, albeit with a small linear association, reported Natalia Gomes Gonçalves, PhD, of the University of São Paulo Medical School in Brazil, and co-authors.

That group also showed a 25% faster rate in executive function decline, again with a small linear correlation (β −0.003, 95% CI -0.005 to 0.000, P=0.01), the researchers wrote in JAMA Neurology.

“Intact cognitive function is key to successful aging,” they wrote. “Therefore, despite the small effect size of the association between UPF consumption and cognitive decline, our findings are meaningful to cognitive health.”

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“Considering a person who eats a total of 2,000 kcal a day, 20% of daily calories from ultra-processed foods are about two 1.5-ounce Kit Kat bars, or five slices of bread, or about a third of an 8.5-ounce package of chips.” – Natalia Gomes Gonçalves, PhD

The results echoed findings published earlier this year that linked ultra-processed foods with dementia risk. Notably, risk was projected in that study to drop sharply when swapping junk food for unprocessed or minimally processed foods.

“Middle age is an important period of life to adopt preventive measures through lifestyle changes, since the choices we make at this age will influence our older years,” Gomes Gonçalves said in an email to MedPage Today.

“This does not mean that older adults will not have benefits if they adopt a healthier lifestyle,” she added. “Research has shown over and over again that we benefit from healthy choices at any age.”

ories come from ultra-processed foods. In the U.K. and Canada, that figure is 47-48%; in Brazil, it’s 30% … READ MORE. 

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