October 16, 2021

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What to Know A few New Research on Processed Meats & Dementia

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At this level, it may be straightforward to disregard headlines on the newest research claiming {that a} specific meals is “unhealthy” for you—or, conversely, has been canonized as a “superfood.” Most articles on analysis demonizing a sure type of meals usually observe a sample: figuring out a selected situation everybody’s afraid of, taking a look at precurrent units of self-reported knowledge (courtesy of a biobank or different long-term observational research), noticing a potential hyperlink between the meals in query and the illness, and concluding by mentioning that correlation doesn’t at all times equal causation, and inspiring individuals to undertake more healthy consuming habits regardless.

Nicely, one other a kind of research was printed at the moment, and it addresses the basic query of whether or not consuming meat—particularly these meats which might be extremely processed—can enhance our danger of dementia.

Illustration for article titled Do Processed Meats Cause Dementia?

What this study found

The latest research on the hot dog-brain connection comes to us from the University of Leeds’s Nutritional Epidemiology Group in the UK, and was published today in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Using data collected between 2006 and 2010 from nearly 500,000 people aged 40 to 69 that are part of the UK Biobank, the researchers took a look at whether there was potential link between consumption of meat and the development of dementia.

While this isn’t a new research question, the authors believe that theirs is the first large-scale study of participants over time to examine a link between specific types and amounts of meats consumed, and the risk of developing the disease.

The researchers found that people who ate 25g of processed meat a day (the equivalent of approximately one slice of thick-cut bacon) had a 44% increased risk of developing dementia.

What to know about the findings

Of course, like the results of similar studies, these should be taken with a grain of salt. First, the findings don’t provide direct evidence that eating processed meat causes dementia—just that a particular pattern emerged in the data. Moreover, this was an observational study using self-reported data from a biobank—not a controlled experiment.

Out of the nearly half-million participants, 2,896 cases of dementia were diagnosed over an average of eight years of observation—with men being diagnosed more than women. Based on the other data available via the biobank, researchers also noted that the people who developed dementia were generally older, less financially secure, 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 highly associated with dementia.

Meanwhile, the researchers also noted that the people who ate more processed meat also tended to be male, less educated, smokers, overweight or obese, ate fewer vegetables and fruits, and had higher intakes of protein and fat (including saturated fat).

Illustration for article titled Do Processed Meats Cause Dementia?

The takeaway

Per the study’s lead researcher, Huifeng Zhang, a PhD student from the University of Leeds’ School of Food Science and Nutrition:

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.

In other words, in order to make a claim like “processed meats cause dementia,” additional, more-targeted research needs to take place. And in the mean time, we should probably cut back on eating foods we already know we should be enjoying in moderation.

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