Policy Overhaul Needed: Impact of the Food Industry on Global Brain Health

In a recent study published by the Baker Institute, researchers propose several policy solutions that can effectively target different aspects of the food industry that contribute to the development of various physical and mental illnesses around the world, with an emphasis on improving brain health.

Study: Good food is vital to brain health, so we need to change the food industry. Image Credit: NDAB Creativity/Shutterstock.com

How the food industry can affect brain health

Physical and environmental health, as well as safety and security, learning and social relationships, and access to quality care, can impact brain health. Maintaining optimal brain health is critical to addressing contemporary societal issues, such as the negative impacts of the food industry on communities, and to fostering innovation.

Various environmental factors have been shown to influence brain health, some of which include diet and exposure to toxins or pollutants found in food, medications, water or the air. While the global food industry has expanded to meet growing population demand, it is responsible for up to a third of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and 70% of freshwater withdrawals, while remaining a major source of both single-use plastic production and pollution. Furthermore, this sector is a major contributor to global deforestation and biodiversity loss.

Importantly, the adverse effects associated with the global food industry can negatively impact brain health. Ultra-processed foods, which currently account for up to 56% of total daily energy intake in various countries around the world, can contribute to the development of many diseases, including mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression, by increasing inflammation and oxidation stress, reducing neurogenesis and brain plasticity, and disrupting the gut-brain axis.

In addition to the harmful effects directly associated with ultra-processed foods, various toxins have also been linked to the industrial agriculture practices used to acquire these products and their packaging. The intensive use of pesticides and artificial fertilizers, for example, can significantly reduce microbial biodiversity within soil and food products, while simultaneously increasing the levels of endocrine disruptors present in these products that can alter the microbiome and contribute to neurotoxicity.

Policy changes to limit industrial impact on brain health

The researchers in the present study propose an ecological approach that incorporates economic, environmental, and political considerations to reduce the harmful effects of the corporate food industry on global brain health. Some of these recommendations include front-of-pack labeling requirements that warn of health effects associated with ultra-processed foods, implementing subsidies for unprocessed or minimally processed foods by taxing processed foods that offer little or no nutritional value; and the development of food assistance programs that promote diets rich in whole unprocessed or minimally processed foods.

It is also imperative that public health officials and policy makers communicate to the general public how food can impact brain health, particularly through its gut-brain axis connection. These open conversations will support beneficial changes in dietary behavior, particularly in vulnerable groups such as young people and pregnant women. Additionally, shifting attention from how certain foods contribute to weight loss to their impact on mental, brain and gut health can also improve food habits and choices.

Under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, federal governments are responsible for correcting misinformation about infant formula products marketed with misleading health claims. Therefore, enforcement of these regulations by national governments is critical to ensuring that companies making these claims are held accountable.

Promote advances in nutritional brain health science

Over the past decade, researchers have made significant progress in the field of nutritional psychiatry. While some of the earliest studies in this field confirmed the association between diet quality and clinical psychiatric disorders, more recent studies have shown that certain dietary changes can significantly improve symptoms of major depressive disorder.

Recent clinical studies have confirmed the therapeutic potential of some diets, particularly the Mediterranean diet, in mitigating clinical depression. Thus, translating these findings into clinical practice and recommending other lifestyle behavioral changes may improve treatment outcomes for many patients with mood disorders.

As this research advances, it is critical that nutritionists, psychiatrists, psychologists, environmental health and public health professionals collaborate with each other to support the development and implementation of effective public health policies. Ultimately, these policies will improve access to healthy foods, limit consumption of ultra-processed foods, and provide educational resources to the public about how diet can affect brain health.

Magazine reference:

  • Eyre, HA, Berk, RA, Dunlop, S., et al. (2023). Good food is vital to brain health, so we need to change the food industry. Bakery Institute. doi:10.25613/1XYC-TM97.

Written by

Bhavana Kunkalikar

Bhavana Kunkalikar is a medical writer based in Goa, India. His academic training is in Pharmaceutical Sciences and he has a degree in Pharmacy. Her educational background allowed her to cultivate an interest in anatomical and physiological sciences. Her university project on “The Manifestations and Causes of Sickle Cell Anemia” was the stepping stone to a lifelong fascination with human pathophysiology.


Please use one of the following formats to cite this article in your essay, article or report:

  • APA extension

    Kunkalikar, Bhavana. (2023, May 17). Policy overhaul needed: Impact of the food industry on global brain health. News-doctor. Retrieved May 17, 2023 from https://www.news-medical.net/news/20230517/Policy-overhaul-needed-Food-industrys-impact-on-global-brain-health.aspx.

  • MLA extension

    Kunkalikar, Bhavana. “Policy Overhaul Needed: Food Industry’s Impact on Global Brain Health”. News-doctor. May 17, 2023. .

  • Chicago

    Kunkalikar, Bhavana. “Policy Overhaul Needed: Food Industry’s Impact on Global Brain Health”. News-doctor. https://www.news-medical.net/news/20230517/Policy-overhaul-needed-Food-industrys-impact-on-global-brain-health.aspx. (accessed May 17, 2023).

  • Harvard

    Kunkalikar, Bhavana. 2023. Policy Overhaul Needed: Impact of the Food Industry on Global Brain Health. News-Medical, accessed May 17, 2023, https://www.news-medical.net/news/20230517/Policy-overhaul-needed-Food-industrys-impact-on-global-brain-health.aspx.

#Policy #Overhaul #Needed #Impact #Food #Industry #Global #Brain #Health

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *