7 Foods that Make Memory Problems Worse

foods that contribute to memory problems

Losing your train of thought mid-sentence? Forgetting why you entered the room? Blanking out on the name of the show you watched last night on Netflix? You may think it’s just the normal aging process, but it could have something to do with the foods you eat. Your brain uses 20% to 30% of the calories you consume, making it is the most energy-hungry organ in your body. Everything you put on the end of your fork matters in terms of your cognitive function. And if you eat a fast-food diet, you’ll have a fast-food memory.

Losing your train of thought mid-sentence? Forgetting why you entered the room? Blanking out on the name of the show you watched last night on Netflix? It could have something to do with the foods you eat. Click To Tweet

If you’re struggling with forgetfulness, take a hard look at your diet to see if you’re consuming any of these 7 foods that can contribute to memory problems.

7 Foods That Contribute to Memory Problems

1. Vegetable oils

Safflower oil, corn oil, sunflower oil, and canola oil may sound healthy, but they are all high in omega-6 fatty acids, a type of fat that can be harmful to your cognitive function if you eat them in excess. Consuming too many foods that are high in omega-6 can cancel out the brain benefits of omega-3 fatty acids (those found in foods like salmon, sardines, and walnuts). The optimal ratio is likely under 4-to-1 (omega-6 to omega-3). Most people who eat the standard American diet, which contains high levels of omega-6-rich foods, have an appalling ratio of 20-to-1 or higher. This is bad news for memory. According to a review of 13 scientific studies, when the ratio is skewed too high in favor of omega-6, it’s associated with an increased risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease.

2. Sodas and energy drinks

Sodas and energy drinks claim to give you a quick boost, but they could be fueling forgetfulness. A 2013 study shows that sugary beverages have been linked to diabetes, which is associated with a greater risk of Alzheimer’s disease. In 2017, scientists reported new evidence in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease linking abnormal insulin levels to Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive decline.  The correlation is so strong, some researchers have labeled Alzheimer’s “Type 3” diabetes. Research has also linked diabetes to decreased blood flow to the brain (the #1 predictor of future memory problems) on brain SPECT imaging, as well as a smaller hippocampus. Even mildly elevated blood sugar levels are a significant problem and associated with brain atrophy, memory problems, and dementia, according to 2013 research in The New England Journal of Medicine.

3. White carbs

White bread, pasta, potatoes, and rice are terrible foods for your memory. They are all high glycemic, which means they cause a quick surge in insulin and blood sugar levels. A 2015 review of the scientific evidence on food and cognitive deficits in Nutrients found that a single high-glycemic meal impairs memory. People with a higher intake of refined carbs and fats have greater impairment on memory tasks. Refined carbs, such as these white foods, also contribute to inflammation, which is recognized as a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.

4. Fried foods

French fries, fried chicken, doughnuts, and other fried fare are not your friends when it comes to memory. A study of 18,080 people in The Journal of Nutritional Science found that a diet high in fried foods (and processed meats) is associated with lower cognitive scores in memory and learning.

5. Artificial sweeteners

Consuming artificial sweeteners, such as those found in diet sodas, on a regular basis is not a recipe for good recall. It can contribute to chronically high insulin, which increases your risk for Alzheimer’s disease. It also raises the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome—all of which have been linked to negative impacts on cognitive function.

6. Excessive alcohol

Drinking too much alcohol can give you a fuzzy memory. For example, alcohol lowers blood flow to the cerebellum, an amazing part of the brain that is associated with thought coordination. In a 43-year follow-up study of more than 12,000 people, nondrinkers did not differ from light drinkers in dementia risk, while heavy and very heavy drinkers had an increased risk. Drinking more hard liquor (gin, rum, vodka, tequila, whiskey, brandy) increased the odds of dementia, whereas imbibing more wine was associated with a lower risk (although wine’s benefit was reversed at high amounts). Relative to non-drinkers and light drinkers, moderate-to-heavy drinkers had a 57% higher risk of dementia—and they got it earlier. A study at Johns Hopkins found that people who drink every day have smaller brains, and when it comes to the brain, size matters!

7. Trans fats

These synthetic fats, or “Frankenfats,” are found in partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, and they have no place in your diet if you want to keep your mind. They are the worst fats associated with memory problems, even in young adults, according to scientific findings in a 2015 issue of Plos One.  They are found in shortening and many processed foods, margarines, commercially prepared fried foods and packaged baked goods, including doughnuts, crackers, and snack foods. Research in the Neurobiology of Aging shows that high consumption of these unhealthy fats is associated with reduced brain volume, cognitive decline, and increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Memory problems can’t wait. At Amen Clinics, our Memory Rescue BRIGHT MINDS Program takes a whole-person approach to memory loss and dementia. In addition to brain SPECT imaging to identify any underlying brain health issues, we also look at the biological (including diet), psychological, social, and spiritual factors in your life that may be contributing to memory issues.

We are available for in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, remote clinical evaluations, and video therapy. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.


  1. Kudos to me because I adhere to all those rules. My memory is fair to pretty good.

    Comment by Vickie Merritt — February 19, 2021 @ 4:59 AM

  2. #. White Carbs
    Why is white sugar, refined sugar, not listed please?

    Comment by Joan Scherer — February 19, 2021 @ 7:12 AM

  3. I am 89 years of age and find myself getting forgetful my Doctor tells me it is normal for my age, I have been
    taking Zipiclone to help me sleep and am told that could be causing my memory loss. Is this true?

    Comment by Laura Grift — February 19, 2021 @ 7:45 AM

  4. Does the sleeping pill Zipclone affect your memory?i

    Comment by Laura Grift — February 19, 2021 @ 7:47 AM

  5. I have been following Dr. Amen for years…and just recently my husband has been diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia with parkinsonisms…However, the neurologist is also calling it Atypical as there are several symptons including some sudden mental and physical events that began our journey of tests , scans, physical therapy, and nutritional counseling. His family would appreciate any resources you can offer to aid in the diagnosis and management of his condition.. He is 71 and except for high but controlled blood pressure and arthritis he is otherwise healthy.. Thank you …Linda

    Comment by LINDA LAMAGNA — February 19, 2021 @ 8:17 AM

  6. You keep berating ‘artificial sweeteners” and site them as a cause in general of all sorts of issues. (Chronically high insulin? Never heard of that one…) There are many substances out there and all very different chemically or organically. I have never seen you give specific reference to specific studies done to prove that they cause damage. Only one I have ever seen was in a journal I had never heard of, and it was on MICE–not humans. And that one lumped ALL of them together. “Sugar substitutes” are very useful to some people with blood sugar issues and should not be so criminalized. Please. I am a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. I generally like your stuff and have had two family members to your clinic. But please SHOW ME THE RESEARCH and define what you mean specifically by “artificial sweeteners”. Give me the specific mode of action in the body that cause such things as ‘chronically high insulin”…..Thank you.

    Comment by Janet DaPrato — February 19, 2021 @ 8:28 AM

  7. Hi! I am 69 yrs old and have been drinking diet soda for 40 yrs. I am type 2 diabetic. Until I read this article I never knew that artificial sweeteners can raise your blood sugar and lead to AD!!! I now know and will cut them out of my diet. Thanks so much for this info!😊

    Comment by Barbara johnson — February 19, 2021 @ 11:07 AM

  8. You are by far WONDERFUL 👍

    Comment by Gail — February 19, 2021 @ 4:12 PM

  9. Is truvia considered an artificial sweetener?

    Comment by Kaye & Bill Rittinger — February 20, 2021 @ 3:40 AM

  10. Do the questions that people ask in the Comments ever get answered or not?

    Comment by Sharon Buban — February 20, 2021 @ 4:39 AM

  11. Jant DaPrato, Sugar alcohols would be a good substitute for refined sugar and artificial sweeteners.

    Whenever I used to consume an artificial sugar I could tell immediately that it was very dangerous for my brain. Very strange sensations that were some kind of weird cross between a headache and dizziness.

    You can easily find evidence with a Google search.

    You should be able to safely use sugar alcohols such as xylitol , maltitol, erythitol, mannitol and others.

    .” Besides its benefits, animal studies have convincingly proven that artificial sweeteners cause weight gain, brain tumors, bladder cancer and many other health hazards.” NIH, Harvard and others.

    I avoid artificial sweeteners like the plague

    Comment by Kirby Merrell — February 20, 2021 @ 8:16 AM

  12. What is the best oil for use in baking. I was under the impression that canola oil was okay for this.

    Comment by L Aman — February 20, 2021 @ 10:49 AM

  13. I am 82 years and are pretty healthy, but surely have also my senior moments. The age estimates I get, range from 55 to 70. My suggestions are for eating as much as possible organic, and specifically whole grains freshly milled with your own grain mill, particularly also the young grain oats as muesli breakfast because after three days exposed to oxidation – i.e. air – grains are losing their nutritional value. Fasting also is excellent, getting the toxins out of one’s system.

    Comment by Paula Buchholz — February 20, 2021 @ 1:02 PM

  14. Thank you this is all great information people need to consider and be mindful about.
    One thing I do disagree with is potatoes potatoes are a wonderful food they’re very satisfying they have a lot of minerals and vitamins to offer us and potatoes get a bad rap but what we put on the potato not necessarily the potato itself.

    Comment by Tracy — February 21, 2021 @ 7:08 AM

  15. What about xylitol? A great substitute for sugar (does not raise blood sugar level). In fact, when trying to wean off soda, there is a brand called Zevita with various flavors made entirely with xylitol that Dr. Jonathan Wright recommended to me years ago.

    Comment by Diane Jacob — February 21, 2021 @ 6:38 PM

  16. Hello Kaye & Bill. Truvia is a stevia based sweetener. Here’s a link with more information on stevia: https://amenclinics.com/blog/can-diet-soda-increase-the-chances-of-dementia/

    Comment by Amen Clinics — February 22, 2021 @ 10:28 AM

  17. Hello L Aman, thank you for reaching out. Our integrative nutritionist just did a great #WellnessWednesday video where she speaks to types of oil to use for cooking: https://youtu.be/rv2r71KGRoQ.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — February 22, 2021 @ 11:38 AM

  18. Hello Sharon, yes we try to be as responsive as possible. We’d be happy to assist you. You can also reach our team of Care Coordinators here: https://amenclinics.com/schedule-visit/.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — February 22, 2021 @ 11:44 AM

  19. Not until i viewed this site when i knew that soda is as bad as death

    Comment by Isule Emma — December 7, 2022 @ 2:22 AM

  20. Thank you for all the comments today from other people but if vegetable oil is not good for cooking or baking then what is a good oil to use moderately use when I do bake fish or chicken I do not eat any fried foods, few potatoes two or three ounces of red meat if any per week. Have memory fog and other issues like forgetfulness after septus poisoning memory issues have tripled immediately

    Comment by Tom — January 2, 2023 @ 10:11 PM

  21. Is there any protein bar that is considered healthy for the body and brain? I get hooked on quest bars are has sucralose with Stevia recently added. No studies on sucralose that I’ve seen so far they subtract the fiber from the carbs. Is that funny
    Mercury math? It does have corn fiber, and they tend to bloat you and give you flatulence… Do they lead to leaky gut? Please respond to me individually, respect my Hyppa privacy. Thank you very much.

    Comment by John McDonnell — January 11, 2023 @ 12:36 AM

  22. Hello John, thank you for reaching out. Last year we introduced our very own protein bar: https://brainmd.com/brain-boost-bar.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — January 19, 2023 @ 8:24 PM

  23. Processed meats w/ nitrates and nitrites (lunchmeats,bacon ,ham).

    Comment by Laura Ann — June 10, 2023 @ 7:43 AM

  24. I have partial seizures and cognitive and memory loss. I am searching for the right dier

    Comment by Barbara — September 21, 2023 @ 2:42 PM

  25. Hi Barbara, thank you for reaching out. For more information about brain SPECT scans, and our services, please contact our Care Coordinators: https://www.amenclinics.com/schedule-visit/.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — September 21, 2023 @ 3:08 PM

  26. Thanks so much for your wealth of knowledge and your wisdom regarding what to do with it.

    Comment by Peggy McKee — September 26, 2023 @ 8:15 AM

  27. I am 89 and in good health. I am beginning to forget names-. I take an energy drinl called ZIP FIZZ – Is that harnfuk to memory?

    Comment by Ronald A Bibace — October 10, 2023 @ 11:09 AM

  28. Saw your online talk with Steve Bartlett -twice! I am in the UK. Both my parents died of dementia – I am taking onboard all your advise – wish I could have a scan, but I could predict the results – hoping your advice will keep me healthy longer! I heard how people who sauna have ‘lovely brains’ and building muscle is good for the brain – so, I am going to hit the gym!

    Comment by Ruth Gibbs — November 14, 2023 @ 6:31 AM

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