This Diet Could Increase Your Dementia Risk, New Study Finds
More than 55 million people around the globe have dementia, and approximately 10 million new cases are diagnosed every year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The progressive condition is currently the seventh most common cause of death globally, affecting not only those diagnosed but also their caregivers and loved ones.
While genetic factors can play a role in your likelihood to develop dementia, new research suggests there's yet another major contributor: your diet.
An October 2021 study published in the journal iScience found that mice fed a typical Western diet over a 12-week period showed increases in oxidative stress and inflammatory cytokines, both of which have been independently linked to cognitive impairment, as well as specific biochemical changes in the brain and alterations to behavior.
"These data suggest that a western diet produces cognitive decline and neurodegeneration," specifically related to alterations in the body's signaling of Na,K-ATPase, a type of enzyme found in cells, the study's authors explained.
However, that doesn't necessarily mean that you're doomed to suffer eventual cognitive decline if you've eaten a high-fat, high-sugar diet in the past. "Dietary modulation to avoid exacerbation of oxidative stress in adipocytes might be worth examining in clinical neurodegeneration," noted senior study author Joseph Shapiro, MD, vice president and dean of Marshall University's Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine.
This isn't the first time that a Western-style diet has been linked to an increased risk of cognitive decline, however.
A 2019 study published in Neurology, which studied 1,600 Japanese adults without signs of dementia over a 10-year period, found that individuals who had higher levels of harmful trans fats—commonly found in processed foods—in their bloodstream were more likely to develop dementia.
In fact, the groups with the two highest measures of serum trans fats were 74% and 52% more likely to be diagnosed with dementia.
Similarly, a 2021 study published in the Journal of Prevention of Alzheimer's Disease found that individuals with the highest consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages had significantly higher risks of all types of dementia, including Alzheimer's disease, as compared to those who drank no sugar-sweetened drinks.
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