In a new paper authored by researchers at the University of Leeds, it was determined that even small amounts of processed meat consumed daily can dramatically increase one’s risk for developing cognitive illness later in life.
This finding was derived from a study sample comprised of 493,888 participants between the ages of 40 and 69 years-old who were previously logged in a UK biobank.
“Meat consumption was estimated using a short dietary questionnaire at recruitment and repeated 24-h dietary assessments. Incident all-cause dementia comprising Alzheimer disease (AD) and vascular dementia (VD) was identified by electronic linkages to hospital and mortality records,” the authors wrote.
“HRs for each meat type in relation to each dementia outcome were estimated in Cox proportional hazard models. Interactions between meat consumption and the apolipoprotein E (APOE) ε4 allele were additionally explored.”
By the end of the study period, 2,896 incident cases of all-cause dementia, 1,006 cases of AD, and 490 cases of VD were reported. Each additional 25 g/day intake of processed meat was associated with increased risks with all of the conditions listed above.
Consumption of processed poultry did not appear to yield any significant correlations with cognitive decline. However, bacon, sausages, canned meats, and cured beef and pork products were linked to the most profound risk increases for dementia.
More discreetly, daily intake of just two strips of bacon was found to raise one’s risk for dementia risk by as much as 44%.
Men were more reliably impacted by the adverse health effects associated with habitual unprocessed meat consumption.
“Worldwide, the prevalence of dementia is increasing and diet as a modifiable factor could play a role,” lead researcher and Ph.D. student Huifeng Zhang explained in a university release. “Our research adds to the growing body of evidence linking processed meat consumption to increased risk of a range of non-transmissible diseases.
The linear trend was not significant for unprocessed poultry and total meat. Regarding incident VD, there were no statistically significant linear trends identified, although, for processed meat, higher consumption categories were associated with increased risks.”
Conversely, eating unprocessed red meat (beef, pork, and veal) was found to lower one’s risk for developing cognitive related illness. According to the research literature, consuming 50 grams daily contributed to a 19% decrease in dementia risk.
It should be noted that many of the participants who developed dementia evidenced similar behaviors and genetic patterns as one another.
This group was typically older, male, smokers, inactive, obese, financially unstable, and less educated. They were also more likely to carry a family history of stroke or dementia, and a gene independently linked to dementia.
“Further confirmation is needed, but the direction of effect is linked to current healthy eating guidelines suggesting lower intakes of unprocessed red meat could be beneficial for health.”