Dementia: The surprising food linked to ‘fast’ brain decline – loads consumed in the UK
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Dementia caseloads are growing year on year, carrying severe human, economic and social implications. A health services grapple to manage the disease, studies have highlighted the crucial role diet plays in the conservation of cognitive health. Some foods, for instance, are best avoided for the sake of preserving brain functions. In one body of research, the lead investigators suggested that baked beans may contribute to the acceleration of brain decline, setting the stage for dementia.
Dementia has tightened its grips on older populations around the globe, carrying a heavy emotional and economical burden.
Research suggests that ageing populations are the driving force behind these figures, with most now living beyond the age of 70.
The condition is devastating for both sufferers and their families, robbing patients of their independence.
But research into a cure for dementia suffered greatly during the pandemic, as many clinical trials were forced to come to halt.
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Some earlier studies, however, warned that processed foods such as baked beans may contribute to cognitive decline.
One body of research suggested that a diet high in red meat, processed meat, baked beans and fried foods was associated with inflammation and a faster decline in reasoning over 10 years.
The findings, published in the journal Clinical Nutrition, found that intake of baked beans correlated with consumption of other fried foods.
The researchers wrote: “Baked beans are often consumed as part of an English-stye breakfast with process meats including bacon and other fried foods.
“The strongest correlation between baked beans and other food groups were 0.16 with fried food, and other correlations for each food groups were processed meat 0.10, fried food 0.16, sugar beverages 0.10 and condiments 0.13.
“This suggested that the link between high legume intake and high inflammatory dietary pattern [IDP] score is not generalisable, but appears to be produced by the particular dietary pattern of the study population.”
It’s important to note that the study highlighted a correlation between baked bean intake and other fried foods, so no causal relationship could be established.
Research into the effects of fried foods shows they cause inflammation in the brain, which damages blood vessels supplying the vital organ.
Foods that are fried also let off chemicals known as AGEs, or oxidant glyco-toxins, which predispose the brain to decline.
The findings stand in stark contrast to other evidence suggesting that bean intake could boost brainpower.
Generally speaking, beans are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are crucial for brain growth and function.
However, some of the drawbacks associated with baked beans include added sugars and salt, food additives and BPA contaminants from can linings.
Experts explain that foods that undergo deliberate changes before they’re made available to us to eat, such as canning, are defined as processed.
Research published earlier this year in the journal Brain Behaviour and Immunity highlighted the perils of processed food for the brain, suggesting it triggered inflammation in the brain after just four weeks.
The senior author of the study, Ruth Barrientos, at the Ohio State University Institute for Behavioural Medicine Research, said: “These findings indicate that consumption of a processed diet can produce significant and abrupt memory deficit and in the ageing population, rapid memory decline has a greater likelihood of progression into neurodegenerative disease such as Alzheimer’s disease.
“By being aware of this, maybe we can limit processed foods in our diets and increase consumption of foods that are rich in the omega-3 fatty acid DHA to either prevent or slow that progression.”
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