It seems we’ve all been hearing warnings about the health risks of red meat for many years now. A recent study found that is not the case… but the same study found certain kinds of meats are indeed a big risk for one’s health… specifically their cognitive health… getting dementia or not.
The study we’re talking about was done by researchers using a database of half a million people between the ages of 40 and 69, with data on them collected between 2006 and 2010. It contained in-depth genetic and health information on all those people. They found 2,896 cases of dementia had developed over an average of 8 years of follow-up of the participants.
The unsurprising findings included the fact that of the people who developed dementia were older, less financially secure, less educated, and more likely to smoke and be less physically active. It’s also not surprising that they were more likely to have a stroke or dementia in their family history. And they were more likely to have a gene associated with dementia.
Plus there were more overweight males who ate a diet with high levels of protein and fat (including saturated fat) and fewer vegetables and fruits compared to participants of the same age who did not develop dementia.
Those are the unsurprising findings.
But here’s a big surprise even to people who have suspected this type of food to be harmful for a long time… I don’t think any of them thought as little as a half a hot dog or 1 slice of bacon could possibly be linked to a 44% higher risk of developing dementia, but that IS what the study found. Wow.
The hot dog and the bacon are in the group of foods classified in the study as ultra-processed foods. They defined “ultra-processed foods” as those that undergo several rounds of processing, and which usually contain food additives such as refined sugars, hydrogenated oils, emulsifiers, thickening agents, and colorants.
Guess what’s at the top of the list of foods that were found to increase one’s risk of developing dementia? Processed meat and sugary drinks.
In fact, the study found that as little as 25 grams (.88 ounce) serving of processed meat which is, as stated previously, about half a hot dog, or one slice of bacon, increased the risk of dementia by 44%.
But, there was also a good surprise where meat is concerned… the study found that unprocessed red meat such as beef, pork, or veal, could actually be protective against dementia. It was found that those who consumed 50 grams (1.7 oz) a day of unprocessed red meat, were 19% less likely to develop dementia.
By the way, those two top ultra-processed foods — processed meat and sugary drinks — are said to provide more than half — 58% — of daily calories in the average American diet.
We’ve reported on other studies that have found processed foods can damage memory, mood and much more by setting off chronic inflammation in the body. And high fructose corn syrup (used in soft drinks and other processed foods) has also been found to cause all kinds of health problems.
Experts advise building your daily diet based on whole grains, fruits, vegetables and lean protein. Making major changes in a person’s or a family’s eating habits is certainly not easy but with more and more findings like this, it certainly could be worth the hassle to have a better shot at healthier lives. And who knows, you may find out you like it or grow to like it over time!