Think before eating processed meat, it's linked to dementia risk

processed meat
Those who consumed higher amounts of processed meat were more likely to be male, less educated, smokers, overweight or obese, the study found. Image courtesy: Pixel-Shot/Shutterstock

New York: A team of researchers has shown that consuming a 25 gram serving of processed meat a day can be associated with a 44 per cent increased risk of developing dementia, while unprocessed meat was linked to lesser chances of it.

The findings, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, indicated that people who consumed some unprocessed red meat, such as beef, pork or veal, 50g a day were 19 per cent less likely to develop dementia.

"Worldwide, the prevalence of dementia is increasing and diet as a modifiable factor could play a role. Our research adds to the growing body of evidence linking processed meat consumption, to increased risk of a range of non-transmissible diseases," said lead researcher Huifeng Zhang from the University of Leeds in the US.

There are around 50 million dementia cases globally, with around 10 million new cases diagnosed every year. Its development and progression are associated with both genetic and environmental factors, including diet and lifestyle.

For the study, the team studied a database containing in-depth genetic and health information from half a million UK participants aged 40 to 69.

The data included how often participants consumed different kinds of meat, with six options from never to once or more daily, collected in 2006-2010 by the UK Biobank.

Among the participants, 2,896 cases of dementia emerged over an average of eight years of follow-up. These people were generally older, more economically deprived, less educated, more likely to smoke, less physically active, more likely to have stroke history and family dementia history, and more likely to be carriers of a gene that is highly associated with dementia.

More men than women were diagnosed with dementia in the study population.

Some people were three to six times more likely to develop dementia due to well-established genetic factors, but the findings suggest the risks from eating processed meat were the same whether or not a person was genetically predisposed to developing the disease.

Those who consumed higher amounts of processed meat were more likely to be male, less educated, smokers, overweight or obese, had lower intakes of vegetables and fruits, and had higher intakes of energy, protein, and fat (including saturated fat).

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