Food affects our bodies and minds. Many people would be surprised to discover just how many food ingredients are linked to cognitive disorders, like dementia.
Dementia is considered by many people to be a disease that accompanies age. Contrary to popular belief, however, dementia isn’t a specific malady, but a general term that encompasses a variety of cognitive impairments in memory, thinking and communication.
It’s unsurprising that food alters our brains. What is surprising is that certain foods contain ingredients that can damage our brains. Consider the following as a list of ingredients that are best classified as brain poison.
1. Advanced glycation end products (AGEs) may cause plaque buildup in brain
AGEs, also known as glycotoxins, are proteins that have become glycated through exposure to sugars. Cooking foods at high temperatures, including fries and meats, can produce AGEs. These harmful compounds have been linked to hypertension and diabetes; however, recent evidence suggests that AGEs are associated with dementia as well.
Increased levels of AGEs may cause amyloid plaques, which are protein pieces that are characteristic of dementia, to concentrate in the brain. A study published in journal PNAS found that the consumption of glycotoxins led to dementia in mice. The team tracked the cognitive health of young, middle-aged and old mice that were fed diets with portions of AGEs similar to a Western diet. The researchers found that old mice that were fed high amounts of AGEs developed amyloid plaque. The researchers noted that the mice’s cognitive decline was not associated with age, since these symptoms were not found in aged mice on a low-AGE diet.
2. High amounts of aluminum are toxic to brain tissue
The human body was not designed to ingest aluminum. Nevertheless, aluminum is a food additive used in almost everything, including cheese, cake mixes and milk formulas. It’s also linked to the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s disease. No one knows how much, if any, aluminum is safe to ingest. The toxic heavy metal is regarded as a dangerous neurotoxin.
Aluminum is a like a drug that directly effects the nervous system. Scientists are certain that toxic metals damage brain tissue. A diet high in aluminum is no exception.
3. Artificial sweetener aspartame linked to neurological complications
Aspartame is an artificial sweetener used as a sugar substitute for yogurt, cereal and diet drinks, but that doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Among all the artificial sugar products, aspartame is the most controversial. It’s been linked to brain tumors, seizures and, perhaps unsurprisingly, dementia. One controversial ingredient in aspartame is methanol — a harmful toxin linked to neurological complications.
4. Fluoride increases brain decay
Many U.S. municipalities fluoridate drinking water ostensibly to help reduce tooth decay, even though fluoride only works on the surface of teeth, not when you ingest it. Rather than using naturally occurring fluoride, cities instead tend to buy hydrofluorosilicic acid, chemical waste from phosphate fertilizer industries in China. Despite its purported use to improve public health, this chemical has been associated with a swath of health problems like dementia.
If clinical studies that examine the effects of fluoride on rats shed any light on the effects that fluoride has on senior citizens, the results are unsettling. According to research stemming from Charles University in the Czech Republic, exposing rats to the same amount of fluoride in the public’s drinking water resulted in the formation of amyloid — the plaque that proliferates brains ridden with Alzheimer’s disease. Furthermore, a plethora of studies have shown that water fluoridation causes brain damage and is associated with lower IQ in children.
5. Long-term mercury exposure linked to Alzheimer’s disease
Nearly everyone knows that many vaccines contain mercury; so do a variety of foods and ingredients, including salmon, rice and high-fructose corn syrup. Like other toxins, research suggests that long-term exposure to mercury may produce Alzheimer’s-like symptoms in people.
In another study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, researchers reviewed more than 100 studies that examined mercury exposure in cell models, animals and humans. The team found a strong link between mercury exposure and behavior associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Although the researchers could not prove that long-term mercury exposure causes Alzheimer’s disease in people, the results shouldn’t be taken with a grain of salt.
6. Artificial flavoring diacetyl is junk for the brain
An artificial flavoring known as diacetyl used in popcorn butter has been linked to dementia. It’s not just found in butter though. Diacetyl is in snack foods, baked goods and beer. Many companies have ceased using diacetyl because of its health risks.
Like other noxious ingredients associated with dementia, diacetyl has been shown to produce the Alzheimer’s-linked protein amyloid. Moreover, other research suggests the diacetyl disrupts the production of glyoxalase I, a detoxifying protein that prevents amyloids from sticking together.
7. Food preservative monosodium glutamate (MSG) accelerates cognitive decline
Similar to diacetyl, MSG is a preservative and flavor enhancer used in almost every food. Unfortunately, like diacetyl, it also increases the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
MSG is an excitotoxin, meaning it causes brain cells to fire uncontrollably. This can worsen pre-existing cognitive disabilities, including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Lou Gehrig’s disease.
8. Soy tofu may impair memory
Soy products like tofu are often considered a healthier alternative to meat; however, not all soy products are created equal. According to a study published in Dementia and Geriatric Cognitive Disorders, high tofu consumption was linked to worsening memory, whereas high tempe consumption, a less processed soy product, was shown to improve memory.
9. Trans fats shrivel brain
Trans fats are the fats to avoid when it comes to warding off Alzheimer’s disease. They have been shown to shrink the brain and increase the risk of dementia. Many fast foods, fried foods and processed foods are loaded with trans fats.
Trans fats deprive the brain of oxygen by clogging veins and arteries. In particular, trans fats rob the brain of the essential chemical apolipoprotein E, which helps regulate amyloids in the brain. When unregulated, amyloids form plaque that interfere with neuron function.
10. Glyphosate herbicide kills pests and brain cells
Glyphosate is the main ingredient used in Roundup herbicide and has been estimated to be in most processed food. It’s the most popular herbicide used in the world. Glyphosate doesn’t just kill pests though; it kills brains cells.
When we consume produce sprayed with glyphosate, it changes our body chemistry as well. When observed in the lab, Roundup herbicide produced the same oxidative stress found in cells associated with Alzheimer’s disease. In order to avoid glyphosate, try switching to whole organic foods.
“Food for thought” just took on a whole new meaning. We can use this list as a reminder for which ingredients to avoid purchasing. Better yet, with this list, our memories will be so good that we won’t need to be reminded.