Increased dementia risk with highly processed foods

What’s good for the heart is good for the brain. Nutrition effects make significant impacts. While processed foods do make lives easier when life gets a little busy—prepackaged sauces, pizza, soups, hot dogs, burgers, sodas, doughnuts, and more—they can heighten our risk of obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart and circulation problems and even shorten our lives. Studies are revealing that eating ultraprocessed foods taking up more than 20% of the daily caloric intake can lead to cognitive decline. Nutrition not only plays an important role in the prevention of the onset of dementia but also the severity of symptoms.

While ultraprocessed foods are easy and cheap, they could be contributing to overall cognitive decline, including the areas of the brain involved in executive functioning, the area enabling us to process information and make decisions.


Rudy Tanzi, a professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School and director of the genetics and aging research unit at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, who has written about ultraprocessed foods in his book “The Healing Self: A Revolutionary New Plan to Supercharge Your Immunity and Stay Well for Life,” said the key problem with ultraprocessed foods is that “they are usually very high in sugar, salt and fat, all of which promote systemic inflammation, perhaps the most major threat to healthy aging in the body and brain.

After onset of dementia, monitoring nutritional intake is vitally important as food or taste changes can occur, affecting the desire to eat or drink. Ensuring your loved one follows a proper nutritional plan and remains hydrated is important to reducing the development and severity of delirium or “acute confusional state.” It can be dramatic and different from what their preferences were; however, expect and be prepared that this could happen.


Communicating with your loved one about their food and drink preferences is helpful as well as providing healthy snacks and drinks throughout the day to ensure they received proper nutrition to reduce or avoid these possible acute confusional states. Altogether, maintaining thorough communication with your loved one and monitoring changes in preferences and in weight can significantly help reduce exacerbation of dementia symptoms. More significantly is the ability to possibly reduce the risk of dementia by avoiding ultraprocessed foods.

Curious how we can help make sure that our clients eat nutritious meals? Visit our Meal Planning & Preparation Services page.