The brain is the organ that controls virtually all of our bodily functions. Unsurprisingly, brain health is of utmost importance. Just as there are foods that we can consume to boost brain function, there are also foods that are detrimental to brain health which we should probably avoid. For foods that have a positive impact on our brain function, please see here.
Here are some foods that have a negative effect on our brain health.
- Refined Carbohydrates
Refined carbohydrates such as sugars, processed grains and white bread contain a high glycemic index (GI). Foods with a high GI are quickly digested by the body thereby causing a rapid spike in blood sugar and insulin levels. When eaten in larger quantities, these foods often have a high glycemic load (GL) which refers to how much a food raises your blood sugar levels, based on the serving size.
Foods that are high-GI and high-GL have been found to impair brain function.
Research has shown that just a single meal with a high glycemic load can impair memory in both children and adults. This effect on memory may be due to inflammation of the hippocampus, a part of the brain that affects some aspects of memory, as well as responsiveness to hunger and fullness cues.
Inflammation is recognized as a risk factor for degenerative diseases of the brain, including Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Carbohydrates may have other effects on the brain too. For example, one study found that children aged six to seven who consumed diets high in refined carbs also scored lower on nonverbal intelligence.
2. Sugary drinks
The consumption of too many sugary drinks increases the odds of developing type 2 diabetes, which has been shown to increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Further, higher sugar levels in the blood can increase the risk of dementia, even in people without diabetes.
A primary component of many sugary drinks is high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which consists of 55% fructose and 45% glucose. Too much fructose can lead to obesity, high blood pressure, high blood fats, diabetes and arterial dysfunction. These aspects of metabolic syndrome may lead to an increase in the long-term risk of developing dementia.
Animal studies have shown that a high fructose intake can lead to insulin resistance in the brain, as well as a reduction in brain function, memory, learning and the formation of brain neurons.
While further studies in humans are needed, the results suggest that a high intake of fructose from sugary drinks may have additional negative effects on the brain, beyond the effects of sugar.
3. Highly processed foods
Highly processed foods such as sweets, candy, instant noodles and ready-made meals tend to be high in sugar, added fats and salt. These goods can cause weight gain, which can have a negative effect on your brain health.
A study in 243 people found increased fat around the organs, or visceral fat, is associated with brain tissue damage. Another study in 130 people found there’s a measurable decrease in brain tissue even in the early stages of metabolic syndrome,
One of the ways processed foods may negatively impact the brain is by reducing the production of a molecule called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). This molecule is found in various parts of the brain, including the hippocampus, and it’s important for long-term memory, learning and the growth of new neurons. Therefore, any reduction can have negative impacts on these functions.
4. High trans-fat foods
Artificial trans fats found in shortening, margarine, frosting, snack foods, ready-made cakes and prepackaged cookies are a type of unsaturated fat that can have a detrimental effect on brain health.
Studies have found that when people consume higher amounts of trans fats, they tend to have an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease, poorer memory, lower brain volume and cognitive decline.
Chronic alcohol use results in a reduction in brain volume, metabolic changes and disruption of neurotransmitters, which are chemicals the brain uses to communicate.
6. Fish high in mercury content
Mercury is a neurotoxic element that can be particularly harmful to developing fetuses and young children. The primary source in the diet is large predatory fish. Mercury is a heavy metal contaminant and neurological poison. After a person ingests mercury, it spreads all around their body, concentrating in the brain, liver and kidneys. The effects of mercury toxicity include disruption of the central nervous system and neurotransmitters and stimulation of neurotoxins, resulting in damage to the brain