Eating more ultra-processed foods linked to increased risk of dementia

Summary: A diet rich in ultra-processed foods such as chips, crackers, fried foods and salty snacks has been linked to an increased risk of dementia.

source: AAN

People who eat large amounts of ultra-processed foods such as soft drinks, chips and cookies may be more likely to develop dementia than those who eat less, according to a new study published in the July 27, 2022 online issue of Neurology.

The researchers also found that replacing ultra-processed foods in a person’s diet with unprocessed or minimally processed foods was associated with lower risks.

The study does not prove that ultra-processed foods cause dementia. It only shows a link.

Ultra-processed foods are high in added sugar, fat and salt, and low in protein and fiber. They include soft drinks, salty and sugary snacks, ice cream, sausage, fried chicken, yogurt, beans, canned tomatoes, ketchup, mayonnaise, guacamole, packaged hummus, packaged bread, and flavored cereals.

“Ultra-processed foods are meant to be convenient and tasty, but they reduce the quality of a person’s diet,” said study author Huiping Li, PhD, from Tianjin Medical University in China. “These foods may also contain food additives, particles from packaging or are produced during heating, all of which have been shown in other studies to have negative effects on thinking skills and memory.

“Our research not only found that ultra-processed foods are associated with an increased risk of dementia, but also found that replacing them with healthier options may reduce the risk of dementia.”

For the study, researchers identified 72,083 people from Britain’s Biobank, a large database that contains health information for half a million people living in the UK. Participants were 55 and older and did not develop dementia at the start of the study. They were followed for an average of 10 years. By the end of the study, 518 people had been diagnosed with dementia.

During the study, participants filled out at least two questionnaires about what they ate and drank the previous day. The researchers determined the amount of ultra-processed foods people ate by calculating the grams per day and comparing them to the grams per day of other foods to create a percentage of their daily diet. They then divided the participants into four equal groups from the lowest consumption of ultra-processed foods to the highest.

On average, ultra-processed foods made up 9% of people in the lowest group’s daily diet, averaging 225 grams per day, compared to 28% for people in the highest group, or an average of 814 grams per day. One serving of items such as pizza or fish sticks was equivalent to 150 grams. The main food group contributing to highly processed foods intake was beverages, followed by sugary products and ultra-processed dairy products.

In the lowest group, 105 of 18,021 people developed dementia, compared to 150 of 18,021 people in the higher group.

After adjusting for age, gender, family history of dementia, heart disease and other factors that can influence dementia risk, the researchers found that for every 10% increase in daily consumption of ultra-processed foods, people had a 25% risk of developing dementia. .

The researchers also used study data to estimate what would happen if a person replaced 10% of their ultra-processed foods with unprocessed or minimally processed foods, such as fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes, milk and meat. They found that such substitution was associated with a 19% lower risk of dementia.

“Our results also show an increase in unprocessed or minimally processed foods by only 50 grams per day, which is equivalent to half an apple or serving of corn or a bowl of bran, while decreasing ultra-processed foods by 50 grams per day,” Lee said, The equivalent of a piece of chocolate or a serving of fish sticks, is associated with a 3% lower risk of dementia.

“It is encouraging to know that small, manageable changes in diet may make a difference to a person’s risk of developing dementia.”

see also

This indicates a plate of macros
Ultra-processed foods are high in added sugar, fat and salt, and low in protein and fiber. The image is in the public domain

Lee noted that more research is needed to confirm the findings.

Maura E. Walker, PhD, from Boston University in Massachusetts, who wrote an editorial accompanying the study, said, “As nutrition research has begun to focus on food processing, the challenge is to classify such foods as unprocessed, minimally processed, and processed and superior quality.Processed.For example, foods such as soup can be categorized differently if they are canned versus homemade.In addition, the level of processing is not always consistent with the quality of the diet.

“Qualified vegan burgers may also be processed for higher quality. As we aim to better understand the intricacies of nutritional intake, we must also consider that more high-quality nutritional assessments may be required.”

A limitation of the study was that cases of dementia were identified by looking at hospital records and death records rather than primary care data, so milder cases may have been overlooked.

Financing: The study was funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China.

About this diet and dementia research news

author: Natalie Conrad
source: AAN
Contact: Natalie Conrad – AAN
picture: The image is in the public domain

original search: The results will appear in Neurology

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