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According to a study, consuming highly processed meals increases the risk of developing dementia.

According to British researchers, persons who consume meals that are highly processed—high in sugar, fat, and salt but low in protein and fiber—may have a higher risk of dementia than those who consume fewer processed foods.

Over 72,000 British persons from the UK Biobank, a sizable database comprising the health information of hundreds of thousands of British citizens, were analysed for the study, which was published in the American Journal of Neurology.

In a press statement, Huiping Li, PhD, of Tianjin Medical University in China, the study’s lead author, said that although ultra-processed meals are intended to be pleasant and easy, they actually degrade a person’s diet.

These foods could potentially include food additives, chemicals from packaging, or compounds created during heating, all of which have been linked to impaired thinking and memory in prior studies. In addition to showing that highly processed meals raise the risk of dementia, our research also indicated that swapping them out for healthier alternatives may lower that risk.

The study’s participants were 55 years of age or older, and none of them had dementia at the outset. Participants in the study answered questions regarding their eating patterns from the day before.

By measuring the grammes and comparing them to the grammes per day of other foods in the participants’ daily diets, researchers were able to calculate how much processed food each person consumed.

Over the course of the study’s roughly 10-year follow-up period, 518 patients received dementia diagnoses.

Researchers also looked at what would happen if someone replaced 10% of processed foods with less unhealthy or minimally processed meals using research data, and they discovered that this would result in a much lower risk of dementia (19 percent ).

“Our findings also demonstrate that increasing consumption of unprocessed or minimally processed foods by only 50 grammes per day—equivalent to half an apple, a serving of corn, or a bowl of bran cereal—while simultaneously reducing consumption of ultra-processed foods by 50 grammes per day—equivalent to a chocolate bar or a serving of fish sticks—is associated with a 3% reduction in the risk of dementia,” the authors wrote.