Eating processed meat may increase the risk of dementia

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Daily consumption of a 25-gram serving of processed meat (the equivalent of a slice of bacon) increases the risk of developing a form of dementia by 44%, a study points out.

We know that processed meats – such as hot dogs, ham, sausages, canned meats and other meat-based sauces – are not the best health allies. Of works Previous authors have already suggested that diets high in these foods are linked to an increased risk of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancer.

There are also a few studies suggesting that a diet high in meat may increase the risk of dementia. In a recent study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers in the nutritional epidemiology group at the University of Leeds attempted to separate the risk of possible dementia from different types of meats (processed or not).

For this work, the researchers relied on demographic data from UK Biobank. This is an ongoing research project collecting health information in the UK. About half a million residents between the ages of 40 and 69 were involved in this study. All these volunteers had completed between 2006 and 2010 a questionnaire on their diet at the beginning of their registration, then during periodic surveys offered a few months later.

44% higher risk

Using this data, the researchers were then able to track the health outcomes of these participants. On the sample, approximately 2,900 cases of dementia were diagnosed in the whole group during an average follow-up period of eight years. By then focusing on the diet of those concerned, the authors then underlined that the risk of dementia had increased by 44% for every 25 grams of processed meat consumed daily.

In contrast, no significant association was found between risk of dementia and total meat consumption, or between risk of dementia and daily consumption of unprocessed meat.

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No definitive conclusions

Of course, these nutritional studies have some limitations. On the one hand, they cannot demonstrate a direct cause and effect relationship, only a correlation. On the other hand, these data are based on questionnaires. And between us, who can remember the contents of his meal eaten 13 or 19 days ago, or even a month? Finally, a person’s diet at 40 or 50 can also change significantly between the time of enrollment and the time of their diagnosis of dementia years or decades later.

Also, this study alone cannot bring clear and definitive conclusions. This is why further work will be necessary in this direction. That said, as said above, this would not be the first study linking the consumption of processed meats to deterioration in health.

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