Dementia: 25 grams of processed meat per day may raise relative risk

Written by James Kingsland on March 29, 2021 — Fact checked by Alexandra Sanfins, Ph.D.

close up of sandwich with bacon rashers

The equivalent of a rasher of bacon per day may increase the risk of dementia, a new study suggests. Photo editing by Stephen Kelly; Alexander Spatari/Getty Images

  • An observational study suggests there is a link between consuming 25 grams (g) of processed meat per day — which amounts to around one rasher of bacon — and a 44% higher risk of dementia.
  • The study also found an association between eating unprocessed red meats, such as beef, pork, and veal, and reduced risks of all-cause dementia.
  • A gene variant known as the APOE ε4 allele, which increases a person’s risk of dementia by 3–6 times, did not appear to affect the relationship between diet and the condition.

People with dementia have difficulties with their memory, attention, thinking, and reasoning that interfere with everyday activities. These cognitive difficulties are not part of the typical aging process.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Trusted Source, in 2014, around 5 million adults in the United States had dementia. However, the CDC estimate this number may be close to 14 million by 2060.

The World Health Organization (WHO) report that there are around 50 millionTrusted Source dementia cases globally, with around 10 million new cases being diagnosed every year.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, accounting for 60–70% of cases.

About 5–10% of cases are associated with impaired blood flow to the brain — for example, as a result of a stroke — and are known as vascular dementia.

Genetic and environmental factors, including diet and lifestyle, are known to affect the development and progression of dementia.

Previous researchTrusted Source links people’s overall meat consumption to their risk of developing the condition.

Meat- courtesy image

However, a new study from scientists at the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom suggests there is a link between eating processed meat in particular and an increased risk of developing dementia.

Processed meats include products such as sausages, bacon, salami, and corned beef.

That said, the research also indicates that red meat may have a protective effect against dementia.

The study appears in The American Journal of Clinical NutritionTrusted Source.

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