Dementia describes symptoms related to progressive degeneration of the brain, which is not a treatable condition, so researchers are trying to find ways to help prevent this condition.
Studies are increasingly highlighting reversible risk factors for reducing the severity of symptoms.
The population of senile dementia is expected to increase with age in the coming decades, which is why research on reversible risk factors is important.
Recent research by scientists from the Nutrition Epidemiology team has linked daily nutritional factors to the risk of brain damage.
After analyzing data from 500,000 individuals, they found that consuming 25 grams of processed meat per day was associated with a 44% risk of dementia.
Studies also show that eating some unprocessed red meat, such as beef or veal, is safe because those who consume 50 grams a day are 19% less likely to develop dementia.
These results are the result of examining whether there is a link between meat consumption and the development of dementia.
“Globally, the incidence of dementia is increasing and can play a role as a dietary modifier,” said Huifeng Zhang, a PhD student at Leeds’ School of Food Science and Nutrition.
The team examined data provided by UK Biobank with in-depth genetic and health information from half a million UK participants aged 40 to 69, to examine the relationship between different types of meat consumption and the risk of dementia.
Data included how often participants ate different types of meat, with six choices not used once or more a day, collected by UK Biobank in 2006-2010.
The study did not specifically assess the effect of a plant-based diet on the risk of dementia, but included data from those who said they did not eat red meat.
Of the participants, 2,896 dementia cases developed in the eight-year follow-up.
These people are generally older, economically disadvantaged, less educated, less likely to smoke, have less physical activity, have a family history of dementia and carriers of the gene strongly associated with dementia.
The study found that men were more likely to have dementia than women. Some people are three to six times more likely to develop dementia due to well-established genetic factors, but the results point to the risks of eating processed meat, whether or not a person is genetically predisposed to the disease.
People who eat more processed meat may be less educated, smokers, overweight or obese, eat less vegetables and fruits, and have higher energy, protein and fat intake (including saturated fats).
Meat consumption has previously been associated with dementia risk, but it is believed to be the first large-scale study of participants over time to examine the relationship between specific types and meat size and disease risk.
“More stabilization is needed, but the direction of the effect is related to current healthy eating guidelines, which say eating less unprocessed red meat is good for health,” Zhang said.
Professor Kid, who led the study, said: “Everything we can do to explore the potential risk factors for dementia will help reduce the rates of this debilitating condition. This analysis is the first step in understanding whether what we eat affects this risk.”
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