It’s no secret that a healthy diet can benefit the brain. However, it’s not just what foods you eat, but which foods you eat together that may be linked to your risk of dementia, according to a new study published in the April 22, 2020, online issue of Neurology®, Medical Journal of the American Academy of Neurology. The study looked at the “food network” and found that people whose diets included mostly highly processed meats, starchy foods like potatoes, and snacks like cookies and cakes were more likely to develop dementia years later than people who ate a wider variety of foods. . Healthy food.
“There is a complex interrelationship between foods in a person’s diet, and understanding how these different connections or food networks can affect the brain is important because diet can be a promising way to prevent dementia,” said study author Cecilia Samery, Ph.D., of the University of Bordeaux in France. “Many studies have shown that eating a healthy diet, such as a diet rich in green leafy vegetables, berries, nuts, whole grains and fish, can reduce a person’s risk of developing dementia. Many of these studies focus on the amount and frequency of food. Our research is from the Food Network. went a step further to look at and found significant differences in the way food items were co-consumed between those who developed dementia and those who did not.”
The study included 209 people with an average age of 78 who had dementia and 418 people, matched for age, gender and educational level, who did not have dementia.
Participants completed a food questionnaire five years ago that described what types of food they ate throughout the year and how often, ranging from less than once a month to more than four times a day. They also undergo a medical checkup every two to three years. Researchers used food questionnaire data to compare what foods patients with and without dementia often eat together.
The researchers found that while people differed little in the amount of individual foods they ate, overall food groups or networks differed substantially between people with dementia and those without dementia.
“Processed meat was a ‘hub’ in the food network of people with dementia,” says Summery. “Those with dementia were more likely to combine highly processed meats such as sausages, cured meats and pates with starchy foods such as potatoes, alcohol and snacks such as cookies and cakes. This may suggest the frequency with which processed meats are combined with other unhealthy foods. Either. Diet, rather than average amount, may be important for dementia risk. For example, when people with dementia ate processed meat, they were more likely to eat it with potatoes, and people without dementia were more likely to eat a more varied diet with meat, fruits and vegetables, and seafood. including food.”
Overall, those who did not have dementia were more likely to have more variety in their diets, as demonstrated by smaller food networks that generally included healthy foods, such as fruits and vegetables, seafood, chicken or meat.
“We found that more variety in the diet and greater inclusion of a variety of healthy foods was associated with less dementia,” said Summery. “In fact, we found differences in food networks that were visible years before people with dementia were diagnosed. Our findings suggest that studying diet by looking at food networks can help unravel the complexity of diet and biology in health and disease.”
A limitation of the study was that participants completed a food questionnaire that relied on their ability to accurately recall food rather than the researchers monitoring their diet. Another limitation was that diet was recorded only once, a few years before the onset of dementia, so any changes in diet over time were unknown.
This study was funded by the Alzheimer’s Association. The overall study was funded by the INSERM research center at the University of Bordeaux, Sanofi-Aventis and other French organizations, including the French Foundation for Medical Research, as well as the French National Research Agency and the Plan Alzheimer Foundation.