Whether it’s a breakfast ritual or a post-dinner treat, some people have a favorite food they love so much that they can’t help but eat it every day. But according to research, including one food in particular in your daily diet can significantly increase your risk of dementia. Read on to see what you might want to cut back on.
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A study published in March in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition analyzed data from the U.K. Biobank to get a glimpse at the health information of 493,888 adults aged 40 to 69 to examine a possible connection between red meat consumption and the onset of dementia. The database included information on each participant’s dining habits, including ranking their meat intake from “more than once daily” to “never.” The authors also noted that some participants in the study were vegan or vegetarian.
Ultimately, an eight-year follow-up period ended with 2,896 participants developing cognitive decline. Results showed that consuming 25 grams of processed meat per day—or the equivalent of two strips of bacon—was associated with a 44 percent increased risk of dementia.
When it came to other types of meat consumption, the results didn’t bear quite as much bad news. The researchers also found that participants who ate 50 grams of unprocessed red meat a day, such as veal, pork, or beef, actually saw a reduction in dementia risk that made them 19 percent less likely to develop the neurodegenerative condition.
The study also included some insight into people genetically predisposed to developing dementia, finding that those participants were three to six times more likely to suffer the condition regardless of their meat-eating patterns. The researchers also noted that participants who ate more processed meat were more likely to be male, less educated, regular smokers, overweight or obese, had a lower volume of fruits and vegetables in their diets, and ate more protein and fat—including saturated fats.
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Researchers concluded that their findings came at a time where such information could be important. “Worldwide, the prevalence of dementia is increasing and diet as a modifiable factor could play a role,” Huifeng Zhang, lead researcher and PhD student, said in a press release. “Our research adds to the growing body of evidence linking processed meat consumption to increased risk of a range of non-transmissible diseases.”
Zhang also added that more research was needed to understand the protective side of red meat consumption, saying: “Further confirmation is needed, but the direction of effect is linked to current healthy eating guidelines suggesting lower intakes of unprocessed red meat could be beneficial for health.”
Other members of the research team were hopeful the findings could help combat dementia in the future. “Anything we can do to explore potential risk factors for dementia may help us to reduce rates of this debilitating condition,” Janet Cade, PhD, the study’s supervisor from the University of Leeds School of Food Science and Nutrition, said in a statement. “This analysis is a first step towards understanding whether what we eat could influence that risk.”
Other recent research has shown that it’s not just eating too much processed meat that can increase your risk of dementia. A team of researchers conducted a study recently published in the journal Nutritional Neuroscience looking to see if coffee consumption could be associated with brain health, including the risk of stroke or dementia. To test their theory, the team gathered a group of 17,702 participants between the ages of 30 and 37 from the U.K. Biobank.
Researchers then compared brain imaging on file with the amount of coffee consumed each day by participants. Results found that those who drank more than six cups of coffee a day were 53 percent more likely to develop dementia.
The team also found that those who overdid it on the java saw a major physiological effect as a result of overindulging. “Accounting for all possible permutations, we consistently found that higher coffee consumption was significantly associated with reduced brain volume,” Kitty Pham, the team’s lead researcher and a PhD candidate at the University of South Australia, said in a statement. “Essentially, drinking more than six cups of coffee a day may be putting you at risk of brain diseases such as dementia and stroke.”
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