Senile dementia: the 7 foods that increase the risk, according to science

A study has identified some foods that, in excess, can increase the risk of senile dementia and Alzheimer’s. Among them also foods that often end up on our tables…

Eugene Spagnuolo

– Milan

We all know that some foods are better than others and that eating healthy is the key to feeling our best. However, new research shows how much diet affects not only our bodies and weight gain, but our brains as well. With certain foods that could also increase the risk of dementia…

Foods that increase the risk of dementia

Premise: dementia is not a specific disease, but a general term that indicates the reduced ability to remember, think or make decisions, which interferes with daily activities. There are different forms of it according to statistics, senile dementia affects 1.2 million people in Italy alone (of which 60% due to Alzheimer’s).

This cognitive decline depends on various factors, but according to a group of Brazilian researchers, even some foods can help increase the risk. They are the so-called ultra-processed foods such as frozen pizza and comfort foods such as hot dogs, hamburgers, french fries, soft drinks, biscuits, candies, snacks and ice cream. The problem is not so much the exception, but the rule: according to researchers, if more than 20% of our daily caloric intake is made up of ultra-processed foods, the risk of senile dementia increases.

Ultraprocessed foods and cognitive decline: the study

The study, published in JAMA Neurology and presented at the 2022 Alzheimer’s Association international conference, followed 10,775 people for 10 years: men and women, with an average age of 51, who filled out a questionnaire on eating habits and caloric intake. At the end of the study period, the participants were evaluated on changes in cognitive performance over time with different tests. The researchers thus discovered that those who consumed about a third or more of their calories from ultra-processed foods were more likely to have dementia.

On an average 2000 calorie diet, this equates to just 400 calories per day. “People who consumed more than 20% of their daily calories from processed foods showed a 28% faster decline in global cognition and a 25% faster decline in executive function than people who ate less than 20%” , explains study co-author Natalia Gonçalves, a researcher at the Faculty of Medicine of the University of São Paulo (Brazil).

Ultraprocessed foods: what are they?

The study designates ultraprocessed foods as “processed formulations of food substances (oils, fats, sugars, starches, and protein isolates) that contain little or no whole foods and typically include flavors, colors, emulsifiers, and other cosmetic additives.” A definition that can be extended to a whole series of products that we make extensive use of in the Western diet: sugary drinksbiscuits and packaged snacks, chips and snacks, processed red meats, etc. Foods generally high in sugar, salt and fats that promote inflammation, thought to be the real threat to healthy aging of the body and brain.

How to do? According to the researchers, an easy way to ensure the quality of the diet is to prepare as much food as possible yourself. “People need to know that they should cook more and prepare their own food. I know: let’s say we don’t have time, but it really doesn’t take much,” comments co-author of the study, Claudia Suemoto, professor of geriatrics at the Faculty of Medicine of the University of São Paulo. “And it’s worth it because so we will protect the heart and brain from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease,” he concludes. “This is the take-home message: Stop buying things that are super-processed.”

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Senile dementia: the 7 foods that increase the risk, according to science

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