Dementia can be a scary topic for some people to discuss as they get older, especially if they don't know much about what it is or what causes it.
Dementia is not a specific disease, but is instead a general term for impaired memory and brain function that sometimes occurs as people age. Although many people use Alzheimer's and dementia interchangeably, Alzheimer's is actually a leading cause of dementia.
Dementia is a complex issue with multiple risk factors, including things like genetics, age, diet, and lifestyle. And although we obviously can't control factors like age and genetics, we can focus on the things we can change, like our diet.
Your diet plays more of a role in dementia risk than you may realize, not only because certain foods can improve brain health, but also because certain foods can increase your risk of dementia and cognitive impairment.
For example, one of the worst foods to eat for dementia is refined carbohydrates because of their connection to increased glucose levels in the body.
When you eat carbohydrates, your body processes them into sugar. This sugar hits your bloodstream, which is then referred to as blood sugar or glucose levels.
Carbohydrates are all processed by your body at different speeds, and the ones that are more refined, like white bread and other highly processed carbs, are digested much more quickly in your body and spike your blood sugar levels at a more rapid rate.
This fluctuation of blood sugar levels is what can lead to many health problems over time, including one of the major risk factors of dementia: type 2 diabetes.
A study published in The New England Journal of Medicine investigated the risk of dementia in people with and without diabetes and found that their risk significantly grew with higher levels of glucose in their system.
This is important because diabetes has been a major risk factor for dementia for quite some time, but these findings suggest that too much sugar in your diet can have a negative impact on your brain health even without diabetes.
This study from Nutrients found a similar connection to dementia and high glucose levels, but they also discovered that what you eat with your refined carbs plays a role as well.
According to this study, eating high-glycemic meals (which are meals with refined carbs without any kind of fiber or protein to slow down the digestion process) can lead to memory impairment.
So, unfortunately for the white bread lovers out there, these findings shine a necessary light on foods like refined carbs and their role in dementia risk, which might make you rethink how much you're consuming on a daily basis. Choosing foods that are lower on the glycemic index (typically foods higher in fiber, like whole-grain products, fruits, veggies, and legumes) can help with decreasing the risk.