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 make life 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 reveal that eating ultra-processed 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 in the severity of symptoms.

While ultra-processed 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.

Nutrition Effects

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, has written about ultra-processed 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 ultra-processed 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 the 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 an “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 receive 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 the exacerbation of dementia symptoms. More significant is the ability to possibly reduce the risk of dementia by avoiding ultra-processed foods.

Curious how we can help with nutrition effects by preparing meals for our clients? Visit our Meal Planning & Preparation Services page.