Eating just one rasher of bacon a day raises the risk of developing dementia by up to half, a study suggests.
The findings, which was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition on Monday, showed that eating 25g of processed meat – the equivalent of one bacon rasher – raises the risk of dementia by 44 per cent.
But scientists of the study also discovered that unprocessed meat, such as beef, pork and veal, was found to protect against the condition.
For example, from analysis of genetic and health data of 500,000 people, those who consumed 50g a day of unprocessed meat were almost 20 per cent less likely to develop dementia, cutting the risk by nearly a fifth.
Executive dean of medicine for the University of Exeter, not involved in the study, said the findings were an important first step, but was too small of a data set to over-interpret results on their own.
He told the Sunday Times: “We should not assume from this research that one rasher of bacon a day increases your risk of dementia by 44 per cent — it is simply not possible to demonstrate that in a study like this,” he said.
The research, by Leeds University, explored a potential link between eating meat and developing dementia using data from the half a million people.
“This adds to the growing body of evidence linking processed meat consumption to increased risk of a range of non-transmissible diseases,” researcher Huifeng Zhang, a PhD student at the university, said.
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The Leeds University team looked at details from the UK Biobank database on Brits aged 40 to 69 between 2006 and 2010.
This included how often they snacked on meat products.
Over an average of eight years, nearly 2900 case of dementia, including Azheimer’s disease, emerged.
Sufferers also tended to be less educated, smokers, overweight and ate more junk food and less fruit and vegetables.
Professor Janet Cade, who supervised the research, said: “Anything we can do to explore potential risk factors for dementia may help us to reduce rates of this debilitating condition.”
“This analysis is a first step towards understanding whether what we eat could influence that risk.”
Vegetarian and vegan diets were not looked at specially but the study did include people who avoided red meat.
It also showed that more men than women were diagnosed with dementia.
“Some people were three to six times more likely to develop dementia due to well established genetic factors, but the findings suggest the risks from eating processed meat were the same whether or not a person was genetically predisposed to developing the disease,” professor Cade said.
“Those who consumed higher amounts of processed meat were more likely to be male, less educated, smokers, overweight or obese, had lower intakes of vegetables and fruits, and had higher intakes of energy, protein, and fat including saturated fat.”
There are around 50 million dementia cases globally, with around 10 million new cases diagnosed every year.
This article originally appeared on The Sun and was reproduced with permission