A study of the Tianjin Medical University in China, it analyzed a sample of over 72,000 people, from the UK Biobank, a huge database containing information on the health of half a million people living in the UK. Participants were 55 years of age or older with an average age of 62 and were studied based on their eating habits. This is to show how a diet that is very rich in ultra-processed foods, such as canned foods, sauces, sodas and salty snacks, is associated with a higher risk of dementia. The study was reported in the journal Neurology.
Professor Yaogang Wangof the Tianjin Medical University explained how the replacement “10% of ultra-processed foods with an equivalent proportion of unprocessed or minimally processed foods, can drastically reduce the estimated risk of dementia“. As a starting point for the study, a list of foods considered” dangerous “was drawn up because they are rich in added sugar and salt, and low in protein and fiber. These include carbonated drinks, salty and sugary snacks, ice cream, sausages, foods fried industrial, canned foods and sauces.
“This type of food may contain food additives or molecules from packaging or produced during cooking, which have been shown in other studies to have negative effects on thinking and memory skills.“, argues the co-author of the study, Huiping Li dell’Tianjin Medical University. “Our further studies have shown that even an increase of only 50 grams per day of unprocessed or minimally processed foods, which is equivalent to half an apple, or a cup of bran, and at the same time a reduction of 50 grams per day of ultra- processed, the equivalent of a chocolate bar or serving of fish sticks, is associated with a 3% reduction in the risk of dementia“.
The study, which lasted over 10 years, was carried out on 72,083 volunteers aged 55 and over who had no dementia problems at the start of the study. These have completed a questionnaire on the intake of some foods classified with a system that allows you to establish the degree of industrial processing to which they are subjected. Based on the results, the participants were divided into four groups, based on the lowest and highest percentage consumption of processed foods.
Ultra-processed foods were present with an average of 8.6% of the daily diet in the lowest group, and 27.8% in the highest group. The food groups that contributed most to the high intake of processed food were beverages (34%), sugary products (21%), ultra-processed dairy products, as well as all industrial derivatives containing cheese (17%). and salty snacks (11%). Follow-up (i.e. periodic control to follow the course of a disease and verify the effectiveness of a therapy, ndr)showed that after 10 years, 518 people developed dementia, including 287 with Alzheimer’s disease and 119 with vascular dementia.
A 10% increase in ultra-processed foods actually increased the risk of all-cause dementia by 25%, vascular dementia by 28% and Alzheimer’s disease by 14%. Replacing 20% of the weight of ultra-processed food with an equivalent proportion of unprocessed or minimally processed food resulted in a 34% lower risk of dementia and 39% less vascular dementia, but did not affect in significantly the risk of Alzheimer’s.
In Italy, according to the 2018 report (so it is very likely that the estimates have changed for the worse), about 13.4% of the foods purchased and consumed belong to the category of foods under observation, while in countries such as the United Kingdom, Germany and Belgium, these percentages rise to over 45%.
It is fair to specify that these data refer to the exclusive purchase and consumption of food, and not to the caloric impact they have on the diet. Therefore, since these are foods with a high calorie content, even in the lowest percentages, the impact on the daily calorie requirement will certainly be higher in terms of percentage.