The brain is the most essential organ within the body, it not only controls the heart, the breathing function of the lungs, but in fact, it controls each and every system and function of the human body. Therefore, it is vital to maintain a healthy and strong brain that works in optimum condition, and it may sound overwhelming, but you can achieve all these health goals with a wholesome and nutrient-rich diet.
There are certain food items that are capable of causing multiple adverse effects on the brain, such as impairing your memory, disrupting your mood and raising the risk factors that lead to the development of dementia. Statistics reveal that by 2030, over 65 million people are likely to suffer from dementia. And if you want to start protecting your brain, you need to start reconsidering your eating habits right this second.
Fortunately, you can cut down your risk factors for dementia, memory impairments, degenerative brain diseases and all kinds of brain damage by eliminating certain harmful foods from your diet.
Here, take a look at the 7 worst food items that cause damage to your brain:
1. Sugary Beverages
Sugary beverages, such as sodas, energy drinks, packaged fruit juices and sports drinks, cause us to consume an excessive amount of sugar and artificial flavours, which not only add up extra pounds to our waistlines, but also increase our risk factors to develop heart disease and type 2 diabetes, along with harming the health of our brain.
Research reveals that excessive consumption of sugary beverages raises the risk factors that contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes, which also increases the risk factors of Alzheimer’s disease. Moreover, high sugar levels within the blood stream can raise the risk factors of dementia, even amongst individuals not suffering from diabetes.
Scientists have highlighted the multiple adverse effects of high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), a basic ingredient found in most sugary beverages, which comprises of 55% fructose and 45% glucose. A high consumption of high-fructose corn syrup can cause high blood pressure levels, diabetes, obesity, high blood fats and arterial dysfunction. All the factors contribute to the metabolic syndrome, along with increasing the long-term risk factors of suffering from dementia.
Several animal-based researchers reveal that high fructose consumption can cause insulin resistance within the brain, along with causing impairments in memory, brain function, development of brain neurons and learning.
A study attempted to examine the effects of a diet high in sugar on a sample of rats, and the results revealed a marked increase in memory impairments and brain inflammation. Moreover, the rats who consumed a diet with 11% high-fructose corn syrup had much worse symptoms as compared to the rats who consumed 11% regular sugar.
Another research revealed that the rats who consumed a high-fructose diet ended up gaining a lot of weight, along with worse blood sugar control and an increased risk of memory impairments and metabolic disorders. Even though more human based studies are required to validate these results, most human-based researchers have revealed that a high consumption of fructose from sugar beverages and other sugar-loaded products can cause extremely adverse effects on the brain, along with increasing the risk factors of dementia.
Instead of chugging down sugary beverages, pick out natural sugar-free alternatives, such as fresh fruit juices, vegetable juices, unsweetened iced tea, black coffee and unsweetened dairy products.
2. Refined Carbs
Refined carbohydrates are made up of highly processed grains and sugars, for instance white flour, and these kind of carbs tend to have a high glycemic index. In simpler words, our body is capable of digesting refined carbs quickly, which leads to a spike in the insulin levels and blood sugar.
Moreover, when refined carbs are consumed in large amounts, these food items tend to cause a high glycemic load (GL), which basically refers to the extent a certain food item can increase your food levels depending on the serving size you consumes.
According to research, food items that tend to fall high on the glycemic index and glycemic load have been associated with impairments in brain functioning. Researchers have highlighted the fact that a single meal that has a high glycemic load can cause memory impairments amongst both, adults and children.
Another research conducted amongst a sample of healthy university students revealed that individuals who had a higher consumption of refined sugar and fat also had a significantly poorer memory. Experts believe that these memory impairments can occur due to the developments of inflammation within the hippocampus, which is an area of the brain that controls certain features of our memory, along with responsiveness to hunger and cues of satiation.
Inflammation is one of the primary risk factors that lead to the development of degenerative diseases that affect the brain, including dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. One study attempted to study the profiles of elderly individuals who consumed over 58% of their daily caloric intake from carbohydrates. The results revealed that they had twice the risk of development dementia of mental impairment.
Excessive consumption of carbohydrates tends to cause several other adverse effects on the brain as well. For instance, a research revealed that children, ranging between the ages of 6-7, who had high refined carbs-diet scored significantly worse on nonverbal intelligence. However, the results of this study failed to highlight whether there was a link between lower scores and the consumption of refined carbs, or if these low scores resulted directly due to refined carb intake.
It is essential to understand that excessive consumption of refined carbs that have a high glycemic index and glycemic load cause memory and intelligence impairments, along with raising the risk factors of dementia and Alzheimer’s. Instead, brim up your daily diet with healthy carbs, such as whole grains, legumes, vegetables and fruits, which have significantly lower glycemic load and pack up countless nutritional benefits.
3. Foods High in Trans Fats
Trans fats are a category of saturated fats that tend to have multiple adverse effects on the health of our brain. Trans fats tend to occur naturally amongst animal-based products, such as meat and dairy, it is essential to note that these natural trans fats are not cause for much concern. However, the industrially produced trans fats, more commonly referred to as hydrogenated vegetable oils, tend to cause excessive damage to both, the brain and the body.
These artificially produced trans fats are added to most packaged and bottled products, including ready-made cakes, frostings, packaged cookies and bakery items, snack foods, shortenings and margarine amongst others.
Research reveals that when individuals consume excessive quantities of trans fats they tend to have increases risk factors to develop memory impairments, cognitive decline, lower brain volume and Alzheimer’s disease. However, there are certain researchers that failed to discover any kind of link between brain health and the consumption of trans fat.
Having said that, it is still essential to avoid the consumption of trans fat for they can be severely damaging for other parts of the body, particularly because they lead to the development of inflammatory ailments and heart diseases.
Researchers have accumulated mixed results to validate the negative effects of consuming saturated fat. Three observation researchers revealed a positive link between the consumption of saturated fat and the increases risk factors of Alzheimer’s disease, while a fourth observational research revealed opposite results.
Experts believe that these mixed results tend to occur because a particular subset of the test population might have a genetic susceptibility to Alzheimer’s disease, which is triggered by the gene termed as ApoE4. There is need for further research to explore this debate.
A recent study attempted to examine the brain functioning of 38 women based on their diets, and the results revealed that women who consumed more saturated fat as opposed to unsaturated fat scored much lesser on memory and recognition measures. This explains that it not only the type of fats we consume, but also the relative rations of fat within our diet that marks a vital influence over our brain functioning.
For instance, diets that are loaded with the heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids tend to aid the brain against the risk factors of cognitive decline. The consumption of omega-3 fatty acids also boosts the presence of anti-inflammatory compounds within the brain, and plays an essential role in protecting the minds of the elderly adults.
You can easily increase your consumption of omega-3 fatty acids, by simply consuming more fatty fish, chia seeds, walnuts and flax seeds. It is highly advisable to completely eliminate all sources of trans fat from your diet, and brim up your diet with wholesome sources of unsaturated fats to promote health and vitality.
4. Highly Processed Foods
Highly processed food items contain an unhealthy concentration of salt, fats and sugar, and they include all store-bought processed foods, ready-to-eat meals, instant noodles, bakery items, sweets, candies, microwave popcorns, bottled sauces, and chips amongst others. These foods are not only extremely low in nutrients, but they also pack up heaps of waist-thickening calories.
They cause a great deal of negative effects on the brain, along with being one of the primary causes of weight gain. A recent study attempted to study the effects of a diet rich in highly processed food items amongst a sample of 130 individuals, and the results revealed a marked reduction in brain tissues, even during the first stages of metabolic syndrome.
Research reveals that the lack of nutrient density in processed foods, which make up a large proportion of the Western diet, tend to cause effect the brain adversely, along with promoting the development of degenerative diseases.
A recent study attempted to examine the diets of 52 people who consumed excessive amounts of highly processed foods with unhealthy ingredients. The results revealed significantly lower levels of sugar metabolism within the brain, and a marked reduction in brain tissue. All these elements are considered to be the risk factors that lead to the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
Another research examine the daily diets of 18,080 individuals who consumed excessive amounts of processed meats and fried foods, and the results revealed significantly low scores in memory and learning. Another large scale study that examined the diets of 5,038 people also revealed similar results.
There is a significant pool of scientific evidence that proves that red meat, baked beans, fried food items, and processed meats are all directly associated with the development of inflammation, and speed up the decline of cognition over 10 years.
Scientists have conducted multiple animal-based studies to examine the effects of a high-sugar, high fat diet, and one research that studied the rats for eight months revealed impairments in the ability to learn, along with adverse changes in brain plasticity. Another research gave rats a high-calorie diet and revealed disturbances within the blood-brain barrier.
The blood-brain barrier is a term that refers to the membrane located between the brain, and the blood supply that travels through the entire body. It aids in shielding the brain, and preventing the permeation of certain substances inside the brain.
Research reveals that processed foods cause damage to the brain by lowering the development of an essential molecule, known as brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). This molecule is present in several areas of the brain, primarily the hippocampus, and it is essential for long-term learning, memory retaining, and the production of new neurons. Therefore, if the development of this molecule reduces, it can cause serious disruptions in these functions of the brain.
Try to avoid all processed foods and create a wholesome diet based on fresh produce, and whole foods, including vegetables, nuts, fruits, fish, legumes, and meat. Moreover, if you want to shield yourself against the risk factors of cognitive decline, consider starting Mediterranean diet.
You can always fix yourself healthy and delicious meals or desserts using lean meats, fresh fruits and vegetables. And every time you feel like eating a processed meal, think about all the excess fat it will add around your waist and body organs, along with increasing your risk factors for brain inflammation, brain plasticity and memory impairments amongst others.
Aspartame is a widely popular artificial sweetener that is prevalently found within several sugar-free products and food items. Individuals who are trying to lose some weight or reduce their sugar consumption to manage their diabetic symptoms tend to pick out aspartame as a supposedly health sugar-alternative. It is added to countless commercial products, which are made for dieters, diabetic patients and sugar-conscious individuals.
Even though research examining the effects of aspartame has garnered some controversial criticism, experts have reasons to believe that the consumption of this artificial sweetener is directly associated with the onset of certain cognitive and behavioural problems. Aspartame is created with methanol, phenylalanine, and aspartic acid.
Phenylalanine is capable of permeating the blood-brain barrier and cause serious damage to the formation of neurotransmitters. Moreover, research reveals that aspartame acts as a chemical stressor that is capable of making the brain highly vulnerable towards oxidative stress.
Several experts believe that all these factors leave behind disastrous damage to the human abilities of emotions and learning, especially when aspartame is consumed excessively. A recent study attempted to examine the effects of consuming high doses of aspartame. The participants were given around 11mg of aspartame for every pound of their body weight, which makes up 25mg per kg for a period of 8 days.
When the study came to an end, the participants had a much higher rate of depression, they became increasingly irritable, and their mental test results were considerably worse.
Another research that examined the effects of consuming high doses of aspartame from artificially sweetened soft drinks revealed that individuals who consumed these beverages had a higher risk for developing dementia and heart stroke.
Some researchers have also tested the effects of aspartame on sample groups of rats and mice. A study attempted to examine the effects of constant aspartame consumption on a sample of mice. The results revealed an increased risk of memory impairments and oxidative stress within the brain. Another research revealed that regular consumption of aspartame can cause an imbalance of antioxidants within the brain in the long-run.
Several other large scale animal experiments have been conducted, and while some failed to find any negative effects, others highlighted multiple hazards and impairments. It is also important to consider the fact that mice and rats tend to be 60% less sensitive to the consumption of phenylalanine as compared with humans. Moreover, several scientific papers have also revealed that aspartame has no negative effects.
Experts state that when consumed within the dosage limit of 18-23mg per pound of body weight or less, which makes up around 50mg per kg, aspartame is a safe sugar alternative. Based on these guidelines, if you weigh around 150 pounds or 68 kg, be sure to limit your aspartame consumption to no more than 3400 mg each day.
Be sure to manage your consumption of aspartame wisely throughout the day to make sure you don’t exceed the dosage limit. For instance, one regular 12-ounce can of 340ml diet soda carries 180mg of aspartame, while a small packed of sweetener carries 35mg of aspartame. Keep in mind that these amounts tend to vary based on which brands you consume.
All facts considered, it is probably healthy to avoid consuming aspartame and all other artificial sweeteners, along with cutting back on your consumption of sugar altogether. Even though it is widely considered to be a safe product, it has been associated with both, cognitive and behavioural impairments.
Consuming alcohol with mindful moderation makes it a healthy and taste-making companion to an indulgent meal, however, when you start consuming it excessively, it can cause serious harm to your brain. Research reveals that chronic alcohol can lead to serious reductions in brain volume, along with bringing about metabolic variances, and causing severe disruptions to the functioning of neurotransmitters, which are basically the chemicals that aid the brain in communicating.
Individuals who suffer from alcoholism usually tend to have a vitamin B1 deficiency, and this leads to the development of Wernicke’s encephalopathy, a brain disorder that can rapidly develop into Korsakoff’s syndrome.
The Korsakoff’s syndrome is characterised by excessive brain damage, which includes impairments with eyesight and vision, loss of memory, unsteadiness and a state of confusion. Experts highlight that excessive intake of alcohol can bring about harmful negative effects in non-alcoholic individuals as well. Rare or one-off episodes of heavy binge drinking tend to be acute, and they can often lead the brain to interpret certain emotional cues abnormally.
For instance, while being drunk, individuals tend to be less sensitive towards sadness and show heightened sensitivity towards anger. Experts believe that these changes in emotional recognition can be explained by the aggression felt by individuals after consuming heavy doses of alcohol. Moreover, consuming alcohol during pregnancy can cause severe damage to the foetus. Since the brain of the foetus is still under development, exposing it to the toxic effects of alcohol can trigger the symptoms of severe development disorder, for instance the fetal alcoholic syndrome.
Teenagers also tend to get exposed to excessively damaging effects after alcohol abuse as their brain is still ongoing development. Research reveals that teenagers who consume alcohol tend to have abnormalities in brain function, brain structure and behaviour as compared to those who don’t.
Even more alarming are the health concerns raised by the consumption of energy drinks mixed with alcoholic beverages. They not only cause an increased risk of binge drinking, but they also lead to episodes of dangerous driving, risky behaviour and a much greater risk of alcohol dependence.
Furthermore, researchers are increasingly highlighting the role played by alcohol consumption in disrupting our sleeping patterns. Consuming large quantities of alcohol before going to sleep leads to poor sleep quality, which can cause chronic sleep deprivation over time.
However, given all these drawbacks and disturbances, it is also important to note that mindfully moderate consumption of alcohol packs up several health benefits, For instance, it reduces the risk factors that lead to the development of diabetes, along with boosting the health of the heart. But most of these beneficial health effects have been significantly associated with mindful consumption of wine, which should be limited to one glass a day for healthy results.
So, it important to understand that moderation is the key to enjoy the positive health benefits of alcohol, while excessive alcohol consumption can cause severe brain damage, memory loss, sleep disruption and behaviour changes. Teenagers and young adults should avoid alcohol consumption and binge drinking completely because they fall in the high-risk groups. Lastly, pregnant must steer clear of alcohol at all costs.
7. Fish High in Mercury
Research reveals that mercury is a heavy metal contaminant that is capable of being store within animal tissues for long periods of time, and it acts as a neurological poison to the brain. Predatory fish that has had a long lifespan tends to be particularly likely to boost a rich build-up of mercury, and it can even carry more than 1 million times richer concentration of mercury than the water it is surrounded with.
Therefore, seafood, especially wild fish varieties, are the basic food source that adds mercury to the human diet. When an individual ingests mercury laden fish, it tends to spread throughout the body, and gets concentrated within the brain, the kidneys and the liver. When pregnant women ingest mercury, it tends to concentrate within the placenta and foetus.
Mercury toxicity can cause some extremely damaging effects to the brain, for instance it can disrupt the entire central nervous system, the function of neurotransmitters, and the stimulating of the neurotoxins, which can severe disruption in the brain. When a young child or a developing foetus is exposed to mercury, it causes serious disruptions to brain development, along with destruction of vital cell components. This has been found as the leading cause of cerebral palsy, and several other delays in developments along with brain deficits.
However, keep in mind that most fish varieties don’t pack up large doses of mercury and you shouldn’t eliminate them from your diet for they contain countless powerful nutrient, including omega-3 fatty acids, iron, magnesium, vitamin B12, zinc and high quality protein. Experts recommend adults to consume at least three servings of fish each week, however, if you’re consuming swordfish or shark, be sure to limit yourself to one serving a week.
It is essential for children and pregnant women to avoid consuming fish that contains high doses of mercury, these include orange roughy, tilefish, swordfish, tuna, shark and king mackerel. It is safe to consume two to three servings of fish with low concentrations of mercury each week.
The recommendations given by experts on this matter tend to vary based on the various countries and regions, depending on the kind of fish varieties you find in your area. Therefore, it is highly advisable to consult your local food safety agency to receive most accurate recommendations. Moreover, if you enjoy fishing, be sure to consult your local authorities regarding the levels of mercury present within the waters where you chose to fish.
Simply put, mercury is an extremely harmful neurotoxic compound that is particularly damaging for children and pregnant women, and it is largely found within large predatory fish varieties, such as swordfish and shark.
The bottom line is that our daily diet and the foods we chose to eat tend to have a huge effect on the health and functioning of our brain. Consuming an unhealthy and highly inflammatory diet, which revolves around excessive sugar intake, refined carbs, processed treats, fried foods and unhealthy fats, leads to brain damage, memory loss, learning impairments and cognitive disturbances, along with increasing the risk factors of ailments such as dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Food items contain several harmful substances that can prove to be dangerous for our brain. Alcohol has been found the main culprit that causes excessive brain damage when consumed excessively, while certain seafood varieties are loaded with mercury, which makes them neurotoxic and capable of causing permanent damage to the brain, particularly the developing brains of children and foetus.
However, this by no means indicates that you must eliminate these food items from your daily diet entirely, because even fish and alcohol pack up a wide variety of nutrients and health benefits. Therefore, it is important to practice mindful moderation and create a rich diet that is loaded with nutrient-rich whole foods and fresh produce.