5 Foods That May Harm the Brain

Know which foods can harm your brain and why?

3 min read
5 Foods That May Harm the Brain
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There's no doubt that our brain is the most important organ of our body. It is responsible for the functioning of various organs: it keeps the heart beating, lungs breathing, and all the systems in your body functioning.

That’s why it’s important that our brain keep functioning optimally. A healthy diet and the right lifestyle choices can help maintain the health of the brain.

Research proves that few foods have negative effects on the brain, which impacts your memory and mood, thus increasing the risk of dementia. Estimates predict that dementia will affect more than 65 million people worldwide by 2030.

But we can help reduce the risk of the disease by avoiding the consumption of certain foods in our day-to-day diet.


Sugary Drinks

Sugary drinks like soda, sports drinks, energy drinks, and fruit juices sold in the market have high amounts of sugar, which not only expand our waistline but increases the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease thus having a negative effect on your brain (US NIH).

Excessive consumption of sugary drinks increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, which is linked to an increase in the chances of Alzheimer’s disease. Moreover, higher blood sugar levels increase the risk of dementia, in people without diabetes.

High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) in these sugary drinks can lead to obesity, high blood pressure, high blood fats, diabetes, and arterial dysfunction. These metabolic syndromes increase the risk of developing dementia.

A diet high in sugar increased brain inflammation and impaired memory.

Refined Carbohydrates

Refined carbohydrates contain sugars and highly processed grains. These types of carbs have a high glycemic index (GI), meaning your body digests them quickly, raising the blood sugar, and insulin levels.

These foods often have a high glycemic load (GL) when consumed in large quantity. The GL refers to how much a food raises your blood sugar levels, based on the serving size.

Foods that are high-GI and high-GL can impair your brain function. A single meal with a high glycemic load can have a negative impact on the memory of both children and adults (PubMed).

The negative effect on memory may be due to inflammation of the hippocampus, brain's part responsible for aspects of memory, responsiveness to hunger and fullness cues.

Inflammation increases the risk of degenerative diseases of the brain, including Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.


Trans Fats 

Trans fats are unsaturated fat that has a detrimental effect on brain health. Trans fats occur naturally in animal products like meat and dairy. But the ones which are produced, also known as hydrogenated vegetable oils are a problem.

These artificial trans fats are found in shortening, margarine, frosting, snack foods, readymade cakes, and prepackaged cookies. Higher amounts of trans fats increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, poor memory, lower brain volume, and cognitive decline (Healthline).

Research proved that saturated fat affects memory and recognition measures of a human being if consumed regularly.

You can replace these foods with a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids like fish, chia seeds, flax seeds, and walnuts, which protect against cognitive decline, and increase the secretion of anti-inflammatory compounds in the brain.

Processed Foods

Highly processed foods are high in sugar, added fats, and salt.

Foods like chips, sweets, instant noodles, microwave popcorn, store-bought sauces, and readymade meals belong to this category. These foods are high in calories and low in nutrients. They cause weight gain, thus having a negative effect on your brain health.

Research proves that increased fat around the organs, or visceral fat, is linked to brain tissue damage in the early stages of metabolic syndrome. The nutrient composition of processed foods contributes to the development of degenerative diseases as well. These factors can increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

According to UK NHS, these foods impair learning ability and cause negative changes to brain plasticity, leading to disruptions to the blood-brain barrier affecting long-term memory, learning and the growth of new neurons.



Alcohol can be enjoyed with a nice meal in moderation but excessive consumption of alcohol can have serious effects on the brain.

Chronic alcohol use causes a reduction in brain volume, metabolic changes, and disruption of neurotransmitters. Alcoholism causes deficiency of vitamin B1, leading to a brain disorder called Wernicke’s encephalopathy and Korsakoff’s syndrome (US NIH).

This syndrome can cause severe damage to the brain, including memory loss, disturbances in eyesight, confusion, and unsteadiness.

Pregnant women must avoid alcohol at all costs since it may result in toxic effects of alcohol and developmental disorders like fetal alcohol syndrome. Alcohol also causes abnormalities in brain structure, function, and behaviour.

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