The shocking damage ultra-processed foods cause to your brain

The shocking damage ultra-processed foods cause to your brain


There’s been a surge in our consumption of ultra-processed foods, especially in the United Kingdom and the United States, where these foods contribute about two-thirds of people’s caloric intake.

Also a cause for concern is emerging evidence of ultra-processed foods’ detrimental effect on our brain health and overall well-being.

When most of our calories come from ultra-processed foods, the risk of chronic physical and mental health conditions escalates. Scientists are now uncovering the intricate mechanisms behind this relationship, particularly concerning the effects of these foods on our brains.

In today’s episode, we welcome back Prof. Felice Jacka, OAM. Felice is an Alfred Deakin professor of nutritional psychiatry and the director of the Food & Mood Centre at Deakin University, in Australia. She’s also the founder of the International Society for Nutritional Psychiatry Research and the world’s leading researcher on food’s impact on our brain and mental health.

Now, she’s back on the show to delve deeper into the effects of ultra-processed foods on mental health and the brain, specifically the hippocampus, an area responsible for learning and memory.

Download our FREE guide — Top 10 Tips to Live Healthier:


00:00 Intro

01:19 Quick fire questions

04:17 What is ultra processed food?

05:37 What is the NOVA classification?

08:18 How does food impact the brain?

10:33 What does the hippocampus do to influence our brain function?

12:58 Is there a link between the size of the hippocampus and quality of diet?

13:45 Is there a link between the quality of diet and depression?

20:37 What are the effects of long term dietary habits?

21:33 Is there a link between poor diet and dementia

23:18 Is there a link between autism and diet?

24:00 How real is the link between diet and dementia?

24:57 What is the oral microbiome?

28:16 New trial between whole foods and vitamin enriched nutritional foods

29:28 How does processing foods impact the makeup of foods on a molecular level?

32:10 How does the biodiversity around us affect our body?

33:08 How does the industrialized food environment impact us?

35:50 How strong is the evidence for this? is it comparable to smoking?

39:12 Practical tips to help with our diet

40:07 How does reducing consumption of UPF affect us?

41:25 How to cut down on UPF

44:04 Is it too late to change your diet?

45:39 Does exercise impact our brain?

47:41 Summary

52:57 Goodbyes/Outro

Mentioned in today’s episode: 

The SMILES trial published in BMC Medicine Ultra-Processed Food Consumption and Mental Health published in NutrientsWestern diet is associated with a smaller hippocampus also in BMC Medicine 

Learn more about Felice on the Food & Mood Centre’s website.

Follow Felice on Instagram.

Episode transcripts are available here.

Is there a nutrition topic you’d like

Heart UK