Don’t so be so rash with the rashers – that’s the message from a new report that has linked high consumption of bacon, sausages and other processed meats with an increased risk of dementia.
A mere 25g a day – a single slice of bacon or half a sausage – has been associated with a 44 per cent increase in developing the disease, which affects 850,000 people in the UK, according to the Alzheimer’s Society, a figure that is projected to rise to 1.6 million by 2040.
The report, by Leeds University’s Nutritional Epidemiology Group in March this year, is thought to be the first to attempt to link specific types and amounts of meat to the risk of developing dementia. Its findings were based on the health records of half a million people aged 40 to 69 who had signed up to the UK Biobank project. Over a period of eight years, 2,896 developed dementia.
The researchers stressed that processed meat alone was not responsible for triggering dementia – a range of other factors were involved. The sufferers within the study tended to be male, older, less affluent, less physically active, to have a family history of stroke and dementia, and more likely to carry the “dementia gene”. However, the risks from eating processed meat were the same regardless of genetic predisposition.
“Worldwide, the prevalence of dementia is increasing and diet as a modifiable factor could play a role,” said Huifeng Zhang, the PhD student who led the research. “Our research adds to the growing body of evidence linking processed meat consumption to increased risk of a range of non-transmissible diseases.”
“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.”
The findings are supported by a 2012 report that established saturated and trans fat – found in red meat and butter – adversely affect women’s ability to think and remember.