The Brazilian Longitudinal Study of Adult Health (ELSA-Brasil) is a 10-year long study of almost 11,000 participants, undertaken to determine if daily consumption of ultra-processed foods could harm cognitive function.

The recently published results in Jama Neurology showed that adults whose diet had a higher percentage of ultra-processed foods, such as cakes, ice-cream, frozen meals, sugars and processed meats, were associated with with a higher rate of global and executive function decline. Conversely, those with healthy eating habits, which include a high intake of vegetables, fruit, wholegrains and fish, were linked to increased brain volume and decreased risk of cognitive decline over time.

Given the limited efficacy of available treatments for dementia, these results highlight the importance of identifying interventions for middle-aged adults that are capable of preventing or delaying dementia onset, to decrease the burden caused by this disorder and play an important role in successful ageing.

Find out more on what kind of diet is optimal for brain health.