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Researchers from the University of Leeds’ Nutritional Epidemiology Group, in the United Kingdom, found that eating 25 grams (less than one ounce) of processed meat per day was associated with a 44% increased risk of all-cause dementia, while eating twice that amount of unprocessed red meat (beef, lamb/mutton, or pork) had a possible protective effect – reducing dementia risk by 19%.
The team analyzed data from almost 500,000 participants in UK Biobank, a database of genetic and health information from people in the United Kingdom ages 40-69. Meat consumption was estimated using a dietary questionnaire and repeated 24-hour assessments, and 2,896 cases of incident (newly diagnosed) dementia were identified during a follow-up period averaging 8 years.
Risk of all-cause dementia was seen to increase with each additional 25 grams of processed meat (such as bacon, ham, meat pies, and burgers) consumed. Processed meat was also associated with increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease, while unprocessed red meat was associated with decreased Alzheimer’s risk.
Previous research has linked meat consumption and dementia risk, but this is believed to be the first large-scale study to look at specific types of meat and amounts consumed. Although it is observational and does not establish causality, it points out the need for further research to confirm its findings and potentially allow us to distinguish between processed and unprocessed meats in public health guidance.
Sources: Eating processed meat could increase dementia risk. University of Leeds, March 22, 2021. leeds.ac.uk/news/article/4793/eating_processed_meat_could_increase_dementiarisk.
Zhang H, Greenwood D, Risch H, et al. Meat consumption and risk of incident dementia: Cohort study of 493,888 UK Biobank participants. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2021; 114(1). DOI: 10.1093/ajcn/nqab028.
Published in the Price-Pottenger Journal of Health and Healing
Fall 2021 | Volume 45, Number 3
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