Ultra-processed foods linked to higher dementia risk

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Scientists from Tianjin Medical University found that intake of ultra-processed foods is linked to higher dementia risk.

Dementia is the loss of cognitive functioning — thinking, remembering, and reasoning — to such an extent that it interferes with a person’s daily life and activities.

Some people with dementia cannot control their emotions, and their personalities may change.

Various disorders and factors contribute to the development of dementia.

Neurodegenerative disorders result in a progressive and irreversible loss of neurons and brain functioning. Currently, there are no cures for these diseases.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common dementia diagnosis among older adults.

Vascular dementia is a form of dementia caused by conditions that damage blood vessels in the brain or interrupt the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain.

Lewy body dementia is a form of dementia caused by abnormal deposits of the protein alpha-synuclein, called Lewy bodies.

Frontotemporal dementia is a rare form of dementia that tends to occur in people younger than 60. It is associated with abnormal amounts or forms of the proteins tau and TDP-43.

Processed foods are essentially made by adding salt, oil, sugar, or other substances.

Some foods are highly processed or ultra-processed. They most likely have many added ingredients such as sugar, salt, fat, and artificial colors or preservatives.

Ultra-processed foods are made mostly from substances extracted from foods, such as fats, starches, added sugars, and hydrogenated fats.

They may also contain additives like artificial colors and flavors or stabilizers. Examples of these foods are frozen meals, soft drinks, hot dogs and cold cuts, fast food, packaged cookies, cakes, and salty snacks.

There has been a growing body of evidence showing consumption of ultra-processed foods is linked with bad health outcomes including depression, heart disease, and death.

However, whether UPF is associated with dementia is unknown.

In the current study, researchers examined the associations between ultra-processed foods and dementia risk using the data from the UK biobank.

They examined data from 72,083 participants (55 years or older) who were free from dementia in the beginning and provided at least two times 24-h dietary assessments.

The team confirmed cases of Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia through electronic linkages to hospital and mortality records.

The team found during a follow-up of 10 years, 518 people developed dementia, of which 287 developed Alzheimer’s disease and 119 developed vascular dementia.

Eating ultra-processed foods was associated with a higher risk of all-cause dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and vascular dementia.

In addition, the researchers found replacing 10% of UPF weight in diet with an equivalent proportion of unprocessed or minimally processed foods was estimated to be linked to a 19% lower risk of dementia.

Based on the findings, the team suggests that a higher intake of ultra-processed foods was linked to a higher risk of dementia while substituting unprocessed or minimally processed foods for UPF was linked to a lower risk of dementia.

The research was published in Neurology and conducted by Huiping Li et al.

If you care about nutrition, please read studies that the MIND diet could slow down cognitive decline after stroke, and Vitamin B supplements could help reduce dementia risk.

For more information about nutrition, please see recent studies about antioxidants that could help reduce the risk of dementia, and how vitamin supplementation may affect the dementia risk.

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