The more studies are conducted on the connection between diet and dementia, the more apparent the link between an unhealthy diet and an increased risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia becomes. While previous studies mainly focused on healthy foods capable of decreasing the risk of said conditions, such as foods high in antioxidants, particularly flavonoids, like apples and spinach, as well as foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, like nuts and fatty fish, a recent investigation also pointed out that certain combinations of foods have been actually correlated with a higher risk of dementia.
Let’s examine the findings of the study and learn how to tweak your diet to enhance your chances of preventing the dangerous neurodegenerative disease.
Diet Can Have a Long-Term Effect on Brain Health in Senior Years
The study in focus was published in April 2020, in the journal Neurology, and it examined the diets of 209 French dementia patients over the course of 12 years, along with 418 control subjects of roughly the same sex, education, and age range - an average of 78 years. The authors of the study checked in with the participants and controls every 2-3 years, recording their health and dietary habits via a questionnaire.
The researchers mentioned that most of the subjects they examined had a typical French diet characteristic of the Bordeaux region, with an additional focus on snacks and processed meats apparent throughout their life, whereas the control subjects typically drifted away from the traditional Bordeaux diet in favor of healthier food choices, particularly plant-based foods.
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Although the study only examined the diets of people aged 65 and older, the researchers are confident that poor diet choices were likely part of the participants’ nutrition habits for years before. “We know that diet over time, starting in midlife and probably even before, likely influences the risk of brain diseases later in life,” stated the head author of the study Cecilia Samieri, Ph.D., in an interview with Healthline.
In addition, the authors of the study pointed out that the inclusion of healthy food choices was just as important, if not superior, at preventing dementia as the exclusion of unhealthy food choices. To get an idea which foods are considered beneficial for preventing Alzheimer’s and dementia, click on the following link: Reduce Your Risk of Alzheimer's with These Great Foods.
Food Combinations Capable of Increasing the Risk of Dementia
Although processed meats have been a consistent feature in the diets of participants with dementia, there were also a few other food varieties, which the authors claim can increase the risk of dementia when combined. Mind you that processed meats, such as sausages, bacon, salami, etc., have been also recently added to the list of carcinogens capable of causing bowel cancer, so eating as little of those as possible will have a multitude of health benefits.
Processed meats combined with starchy foods, such as potatoes, as well as alcohol and sweet snack foods like cookies and cake is what can contribute to the development of dementia, the authors suggest. So, apart from processed meats, minimizing the amount of starchy foods and sugary snacks and drinks one consumes should be a priority in order to lower one’s risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s.
To reduced one’s risk even further, it would be beneficial to replace those unhealthy snacks and side dishes with nutrient-dense alternatives, such as nuts, dark chocolate, and fruit as a healthy snack, or legumes, vegetables, and whole grains instead of starchy foods. The more diverse and rich in both plant-based foods and sources of protein other than processed foods your diet is, the better.
Best of all, the dietary suggestions of the given study are in line with a diet that will also combat other common health concerns and not only dementia and Alzheimer’s. Following these simple and general guidelines will also decrease one’s risk of heart disease, lower the level of chronic inflammation in the body, and even help prevent the development of cancer.