According to a study, people who eat the highest amounts of ultra-processed foods like beverages and chocolate may have a higher risk of developing dementia than those who eat the lowest amounts.
It also found that replacing ultra-processed foods with unprocessed or minimally processed foods was associated with lower risk.
According to the study, eating more unprocessed or minimally processed food than the equivalent of half an apple per day, while decreasing ultra-processed foods by the equivalent of a chocolate bar per day, is associated with a 3% reduction in the risk of dementia.
Ultra-processed foods, high in added sugar, fat and salt, and low in protein and fiber, include sodas, salty and sugary snacks, ice cream, sausages, fried chicken, canned baked beans, ketchup, and flavored cereals.
The researchers found that their results do not prove that ultra-processed foods cause dementia and that they only show an association.
These foods may also contain food additives or molecules from packaging or produced during heating, which have all been shown in other studies to have negative effects on thinking and memory skills.
Huiping Li, Tianjin Medical University
Study author Huiping Li, of Tianjin Medical University in China, said, “Ultra-processed foods are meant to be convenient and tasty, but they reduce the quality of a person’s diet.
“These foods may also contain food additives or molecules from packaging or produced during heating, all of which have been shown in other studies to have negative effects on thinking and memory skills.
“Our research not only found that ultra-processed foods are associated with an increased risk of dementia, but found that replacing them with healthy options can reduce the risk of dementia.”
The study suggests that for every 10% increase in daily intake of ultra-processed foods, people had a 25% higher risk of dementia.
The research also found that replacing just 10 percent of ultra-processed foods with unprocessed or minimally processed foods, such as fresh fruit, vegetables, legumes, milk and meat, was associated with a 19 percent lower risk of dementia.
Researchers identified 72,083 people from the UK Biobank study, a large database containing the health information of half a million people.
They were 55 and older and had no dementia at the start of the study.
After being followed for an average of 10 years, 518 were diagnosed with dementia.
It is encouraging to know that small, manageable dietary changes can make all the difference in a person’s risk of dementia
Huiping Li, Tianjin Medical University
The researchers determined the amount of ultra-processed food 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.
Participants were divided into four equal groups from the lowest percentage consumption of ultra-processed foods to the highest.
The researchers found that on average, ultra-processed foods made up 9% of the daily diet of people in the lowest group, an average of 225 grams per day, compared with 28% of people in the highest group, or an average of 814. grams per day.
They say the main food group contributing to a high intake of ultra-processed food was beverages, followed by sugary and ultra-processed dairy products.
In the lowest group, 105 of the 18,021 people developed dementia, compared with 150 of the 18,021 people in the highest group.
Huiping Li said, “Our results also show an increase of only 50 grams per day of unprocessed or minimally processed foods, which is equivalent to half an apple, a serving of corn or a bowl of bran, while simultaneously decreasing ultra-foods. processed at 50 grams per day, equivalent to a bar of chocolate or a serving of fish sticks, are associated with a 3% reduction in the risk of dementia.
“It is encouraging to know that small, manageable changes in diet can make a difference in a person’s risk of dementia.”
The results are published in Neurology magazine.