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

July 10, 2023
5 min read

Fall in children's IQ could be a consequence of inadequate 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.3,4UPFs, 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 generally 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 the 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."

About V&Me

In 2021, Mulu Sun and Lenko Tzvetanov, co-founders and husband and wife team, launched V&Me to counterbalance the shortcomings of the baby food industry. V&Me places a high emphasis on providing quality early years nutrition, creating wholesome, healthy meals from scratch daily. V&Me's mission is to equip the upcoming generation with the healthy start they all deserve.

Find out more about V&Me's services at: http://vandme.co.uk/

About Think-Through Nutrition

Think Through Nutrition (TTN) is the UK's leading authority on the link between nutrition, brain health and behaviour. Grounded in four decades of evidence-based research, its world-class and global team of experts leads groundbreaking work in this field. Its belief is that nourished minds illuminate brighter futures for all. Its mission is to empower everyone, including society's most vulnerable, through optimal nutrition.

Find out more about Think Through Nutrition at: https://thinkthroughnutrition.org/


  1. Teasdale, T. W., & Owen, D. R. (2005). A long-term rise and recent decline in intelligence test performance: The Flynn Effect in reverse. Personality and Individual Differences, 39(4), 837-843.
  2. Bal-Sezerel, B., Ateşgöz, N. N., & Kirişçi, N. (2023). Intelligence differences across years: A trend analysis. Kuramsal Eğitimbilim Dergisi [Journal of Theoretical Educational Science], 16(1), 107-126.
  3. First Step Nutrition, Ultra-Processed Foods marketed for infants and young children in the UK (2023), p7
  4. First Step Nutrition, Ultra-Processed Foods marketed for infants and young children in the UK (2023), data from Scottish Government 2018, p15
  5. Gonçalves, N.D., Ferreira, N.V., Khandpur, N., & et al (2022). Association between consumption of ultra-processed foods and cognitive decline. Jama Neurol. 2023;80(2):142-150.
  6. Hecht, E.M., Rabil, A., Martinez Steele, E., Abrams, G.A., Ware, D., Landy, D.C., & Hennekens C.H. (2022). Cross-sectional examination of ultra-processed food consumption and adverse mental health symptoms. Public Health Nutr. 2022 Nov;25(11):3225-3234.
  7. Chang, K., Gunter, M., Rauber, F., Levy, R., & et al (2023). Ultra-processed food consumption, cancer risk and cancer mortality: a large-scale prospective analysis within the UK Biobank. The Lancet eClinicalMedicine, Volume 56, 101840.

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About the author
July 10, 2023
Will is our very own in-house baby food expert! He is the go-to for anything baby, weaning, or product related. Working directly with experts, professors and paediatric dietitians, our content aims to keep you up to date on the latest tips, advice and opinions, giving you and your little one the best start for developing healthy eating habits.
Phoenix Baker
Product Manager
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