Processed meat could increase dementia risk

Researchers at the University of Leeds studying data from 500,000 UK Biobank participants found that just 25g of processed meat per day, equal to one rasher of bacon, could increase dementia risk by 44%. Interestingly, a 19% reduction in dementia risk is observed in those who consume 50g of unprocessed red meat daily. 

The research was published this week in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and is the first large scale study assessing dementia outcomes in relation to meat consumption. However, a plethora of evidence already exists to cement the association between the neurodegenerative disease and dietary choices. 

Many factors contribute to the development of dementia, notably the presence of the apolipoprotein E ε4 allele – a gene strongly associated with the disease. Scientists from the research group in Leeds, led by PhD student Huifeng Zhang, also showed this specific genetic component to increase the risk by three to six-fold. Importantly, the risk identified with regular consumption of unprocessed meat was found to be independent of the genetic risks.

Dietician Yu-Han Huang explains which foods are good and bad for preventing dementia and Alzheimers. Source: Franciscan Health.

Dementia contributes significantly to the UK non-transmissible disease burden affecting over 850,000 people and costing over £10 billion in social care annually. Economists put that figure at £26 billion when lost productivity is taken into account. The true impact on individuals and families is incalculable. 

Researchers at the University of Leeds’ School of Food Science and Nutrition are leading a growing trend by exploring links between meat consumption and the development of dementia. Dietary factors are modifiable and exploring these associations could help prevent onset of chronic diseases, including dementia, in an ageing population. 

By Zaide O’rourke

Featured image from Virtual Health Partners.