6 Foods Science Says Are Actually Making You Dumber


Not everything you eat is good for you. Most of us know that by now. What you may not know, though, is that the food you eat can not only affect your cardiovascular health, your weight, and your insulin sensitivity, but it can also affect how well your brain works.

We've all heard of the super foods — the foods that make your body and brain work better. Consider this, then, a list of the opposite of superfoods, or maybe the superfood villains. In addition to all of the other bad things these foods can do to your body, they also inhibit your brain function.

1. High Fructose Corn Syrup

If you eat a high fructose diet, you will eventually diminish how your mind stores and retrieves information. In as little as six weeks, rats fed a high fructose diet were not learning or remembering as well as their counterparts who consumed less fructose.

These days, high fructose corn syrup is in quite a bit of the food we eat every day. Almost anything sweetened contains it, but you find it especially in foods like cookies, doughnuts, soda, and candy. It also hides out in items like ketchup, BBQ sauce, and salad dressing, where you might not think to look.

If you do eat a lot of sugar (or you have in the past), try taking an Omega-3 supplement every day. The study also shows that this mitigates at least some of the problems that fructose can cause in the brain.

2. Trans Fats

Trans fats are actually linked to having a physically smaller brain. And less brain matter equals lower intelligence and lower overall functioning. Yikes!

You can find trans fats in a lot of things, though more recently regulations have gone into effect requiring manufacturers to limit them. Still, it's worth checking the boxes on your crackers and pastries (common trans fat carriers) before you buy them. Fried foods and some margarines can also have higher levels of trans fats than you — and your brain — might prefer.

3. Fast Food

Studies show that consuming a lot of fast food seems to make kids less intelligent. A study in Australia examined children's diets when they were small — six months, 15 months, and two years — and then examined the children themselves again at age eight. Those who ate a lot of fast food when they were small had up to two fewer IQ points than the others, even several years later.

Okay, so two IQ points may not sound like a lot, but it's significant considering how many of us eat fast food regularly. Do we really want to be part of a trend towards lower IQs almost across the board? Probably not. So make the effort to take your lunch, buy a salad, and only eat fast food when you really can't get anything else.

4. Salt

We've long known that salt can contribute to all sorts of physical ailments, especially hypertension and other vascular problems, but now it seems like eating a lot of salt can lead to dementia when we get older.

Scientists suspect that the vascular effects of salt are tied closely to this dementia risk. After all, the brain must have blood flowing to, through, and away from it to work well. If that isn't happening, then it definitely won't function as well.

Fortunately, exercise, while it might not counteract the effects of salt entirely, can help keep the cardiovascular system in better shape. This means that a diet high in salt may not affect exercisers as much as non-exercisers.

5. Tofu

This is probably an unexpected addition to this list, because most people associate eating tofu with good health. In fact, especially in older adults, tofu can actually make you more likely to develop dementia or experience other types of memory loss. While you have to eat quite a bit of tofu for it to have this effect, it is something to think about before you make your next vegetarian stir fry.

It's also important to note that other soy products seem to have this same problem. So if you're over 68, or you just want to be careful, avoid them all to give yourself a better chance at avoiding memory problems later.

6. Processed Foods

Several of the other foods we've discussed here fall into this category, too. Basically, the further something gets from its natural state before you eat it, the more processed it is. Fortunately, these foods are relatively easy to identify and avoid. Which is good, because people who eat a lot of processed foods don't perform as well on memory and reasoning tests.

Given the wide ranges of processed food available and the items we've discussed above, it's easy to see a lot of reasons why this is true. But the reasons don't really matter, for all practical purposes. It's enough to simply know that these foods can hurt your brain.

Do you eat any of these foods? Can you feel them affecting you cognitively?

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Guest's picture

Having dementia does not make a person "dumb"! How cruel and inaccurate.