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Policy overhaul needed: Food industry’s impact on global brain health

Policy overhaul needed: Food industry’s impact on global brain health

In a recent study published by the Baker Institute, researchers propose several policy solutions that may effectively goal different facets of the food industry that contribute to the event of assorted physical and mental diseases throughout the world, with a specific give attention to improving brain health.

Study: Good Food is Vital for Brain Health So We Must Change the Food Industry. Image Credit: NDAB Creativity / Shutterstock.com

How the food industry can impact brain health

Physical and environmental health, in addition to safety and security, learning and social relationships, and access to quality care, can impact brain health. Maintaining optimal brain health is crucial for tackling contemporary societal issues, corresponding to the adversarial impacts of the food industry on communities, and promoting innovation.

Various environmental aspects have been shown to influence brain health, a few of which include nutrition and exposure to toxins or pollutants present in food, medication, water, or air. Although the worldwide food industry has expanded to fulfill growing population demands, it’s liable for as much as one-third of world greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and 70% of freshwater withdrawals, all of the while remaining a significant source of each single-use plastic production and pollution. Moreover, this industry is a primary contributor to global deforestation and biodiversity loss.

Importantly, the adversarial effects related to the worldwide food industry can have a negative impact on brain health. Ultra-processed foods, which currently account for as much as 56% of the whole every day energy intake in various countries throughout the world, can contribute to the event of many diseases, including mental health conditions corresponding to anxiety and depression, by increasing inflammation and oxidative stress, reducing neurogenesis and brain plasticity, and disrupting the gut-brain axis.  

Along with the harmful effects directly related to ultra-processed foods, various toxins have also been linked to the economic farming practices used to accumulate these products and their packaging. The intensive use of pesticides and artificial fertilizers, for instance, can significantly reduce microbial biodiversity inside the soil and food products while concurrently increasing the degrees of endocrine disruptors present in these products that may disrupt the microbiome and contribute to neurotoxicity.

Policy changes to limit the economic impact on brain health

The researchers of the present study propose an ecological approach that comes with economic, environmental, and political considerations to scale back the harmful effects of the company food industry on global brain health. A few of these recommendations include front-of-package labeling requirements warning against the health effects related to ultra-processed foods, the implementation of subsidies for unprocessed or minimally processed foods while taxing industrial food products that provide little to no dietary value, and developing food assistance programs that promote diets wealthy in unprocessed or minimally processed whole foods.

It’s also imperative that public health officials and policymakers communicate how food can impact brain health, particularly through its connection of the gut-brain axis, to most of the people. These open conversations will support useful dietary behavior changes, particularly in vulnerable groups like young men and pregnant women. Moreover, shifting the main target from how certain foods contribute to weight reduction to their impact on mental, brain, and gut health may additionally improve dietary habits and decisions.

Under the Convention of the Rights of the Child, federal governments are liable for correcting misinformation on business milk formula products marketed with misleading health claims. Subsequently, enforcing these regulations by national governments is crucial to be sure that corporations making these claims are held accountable.  

Promoting dietary brain health science advancements

Over the past decade, researchers have made significant advancements in the sector of dietary psychiatry. Whereas among the earliest studies on this field confirmed the association between weight-reduction plan quality and clinical psychiatric disorders, more moderen studies have demonstrated that certain dietary changes can significantly improve severe major depressive disorder symptoms.  

Recent clinical trials have confirmed the therapeutic potential of certain diets, particularly the Mediterranean weight-reduction plan, in mitigating clinical depression. Thus, translating these findings into clinical practice and recommending other lifestyle behavior changes can improve treatment outcomes for a lot of patients with mood disorders.

As this research advances, it’s crucial for nutritionists, psychiatrists, psychologists, environmental health, and public health professionals to collaborate with one another to support the event and implementation of effective public health policies. Ultimately, these policies will improve access to healthy foods, limit the consumption of ultra-processed foods, and supply educational resources to the general public on how weight-reduction plan can impact brain health.   

Journal reference:

  • Eyre, H. A., Berk, R. A., Dunlop, S., et al. (2023). Good Food is Vital for Brain Health So We Must Change the Food Industry. Baker Institute. doi:10.25613/1XYC-TM97.


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