How food combinations affect dementia risk

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Dementia is a condition characterized by a loss of cognitive functioning, including thinking, remembering, and reasoning, to the extent that it interferes with daily life and activities.

In addition to cognitive decline, dementia can lead to emotional changes and alterations in personality.

A recent study from the University of Bordeaux in France has shed light on the relationship between dementia risk and the combinations of foods consumed in a person’s diet.

Rather than solely examining individual food items or food groups, this study delved into “food networks” to investigate the potential associations between dietary patterns and dementia risk.

The research aimed to uncover whether it’s not just what foods people eat but also how these foods are combined that may influence the risk of developing dementia.

Key Findings

Here are the key findings from the study:

Participants whose diets were primarily composed of highly processed meats, starchy foods (like potatoes), and snacks (such as cookies and cakes) were more likely to develop dementia in subsequent years.

In contrast, those who consumed a wider variety of healthy foods, such as green leafy vegetables, berries, nuts, whole grains, and fish, exhibited a lower risk of dementia.

The study included 209 participants with dementia and 418 without dementia, with an average age of 78. They had previously completed a food questionnaire that detailed their dietary habits over the course of a year, including types of food and frequency of consumption.

The researchers analyzed the food questionnaire data to discern which foods were often consumed together by individuals with and without dementia.

Processed meats emerged as a central component of the food networks of people with dementia. Specifically, individuals who developed dementia tended to combine processed meats, like sausages and cured meats, with starchy foods, alcohol, and snacks like cookies and cakes.

On the other hand, those without dementia exhibited more diverse diets, characterized by various small food networks that frequently included healthier options such as fruits, vegetables, seafood, poultry, and meats.


This study highlights the intricate relationship between dietary patterns and dementia risk. It suggests that not only the types of foods but also the combinations in which they are consumed may play a crucial role in dementia prevention.

Specifically, a diverse diet that incorporates a range of healthy foods appears to be associated with a reduced risk of dementia.

The findings underscore the importance of studying dietary patterns and food networks in understanding the complex interplay between diet and health outcomes, including the risk of dementia.

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