Tackling the Brain Development Impact of Ultra-Processed Foods with Baby Food Startup V&Me & Charity Think Through Nutrition


V&Me, a rapidly growing baby food start-up, is tackling the decline in our children’s brain health with Think Through Nutrition (TTN), a leading brain health and nutrition charity.

Studies have shown a disturbing worldwide trend since the late 1990s: a decline in IQ scores, reversing the healthy upward trend seen over the previous century.1 This disconcerting change was substantiated by a 2023 study that documented a 6-point fall in children’s general IQ during 2016-2021.2 We believe this decline could be a consequence of inadequate nutrition, including the prevalent consumption of Ultra Processed Foods (UPFs).

Recognising the gravity of these issues, V&Me is working with Think Through Nutrition to prioritise the health and wellness of the youngest members of our society. Recent damning reports have shown that UPFs account for nearly two-thirds (61%) of the total energy intake of UK children aged between 2-5 years and 87% of parents of babies aged 8-12 months reported feeding them commercial baby food.3,4

UPFs, which are extensively processed and usually contain a lengthy list of artificially derived ingredients, are often high in sugar, unhealthy fats, and unnecessary calories, while being low in essential nutrients. Such characteristics are far from ideal for the proper growth and development of children in their formative early years.

A mounting body of research suggests that UPFs may have a detrimental impact on brain health, including reduced cognitive function5 and an increased risk of mental health issues6, alongside general greater risks of developing serious illnesses.7

Studies have linked increased UPF consumption with a 28% acceleration of cognitive decline among adults compared to those consuming fewer UPFs.5 The reason why UPFs have these negative effects on brain health is not yet fully understood. While further studies are needed, research suggests that UPFs may disrupt gut microbiome, cause nutritional deficiencies, and increase pro-inflammatory markers, potentially accelerating cognitive decline.

Members of the TTN Science Advisory Council have issued warnings about deteriorating diets over the past 75 years, correlating to declining brain size and a rise in brain disorders.

V&Me is now responding swiftly to the latest challenges by focusing on brain development through its work with TTN, going above and beyond existing public health guidelines for early years nutrition. Together, they are designing menus based on the latest scientific research on nutrition and brain development, aiming to provide babies and young children with the nutrients they need for optimal growth and development.

Lenko Tzvetanov, co-founder and head of V&Me’s research team, expressed his enthusiasm about the collaboration:
“V&Me is delighted to be the first commercial affiliate approved by Think Through Nutrition. Our joint mission is to ensure that V&Me’s recipes meet the highest nutritional standards, fostering positive brain health and development for children from 6 months onwards, a key formative period for the youngest members of our society.

Since the recent report (Ultra-Processed Foods marketed for infants and young children in the UK) by First Step Nutrition, there has been more awareness around the prevalence of UPFs in our children’s diets and the implications on their health, but we cannot change people’s behaviour unless we offer parents real alternatives to home cooking. V&Me exists to bridge the gap between public health recommendations and busy parents’ reality.”

Concerning the timing of the collaboration, Mulu Sun, CEO of V&Me, stated:
“We urge parents and policymakers to take immediate action to address the problem of high UPF consumption and inadequate nutrition for children. The sooner we act, the better the chances of reversing this worrying trend and ensuring that all children in the UK have the opportunity to reach their full potential. At V&Me, we’re working to educate parents about the importance of feeding their children real, whole foods to create healthy eating habits that last. We must not wait as the future of our children’s brains depends on it.”