Elevated Dementia Risk Associated with High Fast Food Intake

There has been a growing body of evidence associating consumption of ultra-processed foods (UPF) with adverse health outcomes including depression, cardiovascular disease, and all-cause mortality. 

UPFs are high in sugar, fat, and salt and low in protein and fiber. Some examples are soft drinks, salty and sugary snacks, ice cream, sausage, deep-fried chicken, yogurt, canned baked beans and tomatoes, ketchup, mayonnaise, packaged guacamole and hummus, packaged breads, and flavored cereals.

A diet high in ultra processed foods (UPFs) is linked to an increased risk for dementia, new research suggests.

Huiping Li, PhD, Tianjin Medical University, and his team studied whether ultra-processed foods are associated with an increased risk of dementia. They identified 72,083 individuals from the UK Biobank, a large database containing the health information of half a million people living in the United Kingdom. The mean age of the participants was 61.6 years, all were free of dementia at baseline.

Over 10 years of follow-up, 518 participants developed dementia. Of these, 287 developed Alzheimer’s disease, 119 developed vascular dementia, and 112 developed dementia of unspecified origin.

The researchers determined how much UPF the participants ate per day and then divided them into four equal groups, from lowest consumption to highest.

On average, UPFs comprised 9% of the daily diet of people in the lowest consumption group, for an average of 225 grams per day. By contrast, they comprised 28% of the daily diet of people in the highest consumption group, for an average of 814 grams per day.

What were the consequences of high UPF intake in this study? 

Results showed that a higher level of UPF intake was associated with a significantly higher risk for dementia.

Compared with those who consumed the least amount of UPFs, among those in the highest consumption category, the risk for developing dementia was increased by 50%. Their risk of developing vascular dementia was even greater, increasing more than twofold compared with those who consumed the least amount.

Beverages such as soft drinks and sodas constituted the main “food group” contributing to a person’s intake of UPFs. They accounted for 34% of the overall UPF intake in the current analysis. The next most common contributor was sugary products, which accounted for 21%, followed by ultra processed dairy products (17%) and salty snacks (11%).

They found that such a substitution would be associated with a 19% lower risk for dementia and a 22% lower risk for vascular dementia, by using a database to estimate what happens if they substitute a 10% of the daily UPF intake.

This study shows us that high intake of fast food is associated with elevated risk of dementia, on the other hand the results suggest the benefit of a little amount change of the daily intake  diminishes that risk. It is important to get a nutrition assessment to help with decrease of fast food intake, or change the quality of it.


Huiping Li, Shu Li, Hongxi Yang, Yuan Zhang, Shunming Zhang, Yue Ma, Yabing Hou, Xinyu Zhang, Kaijun Niu, Yan Borne, Yaogang Wang (July 22, 2022). Association of Ultraprocessed Food Consumption With Risk of Dementia. Neurology Education. Retrieved from: https://n.neurology.org/content/early/2022/07/26/WNL.0000000000200871 


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