Eating Processed Meat Every Day Could Seriously Impact Cognitive Health

Researchers used data from 493,888 different people ages 40 to 69 from the U.K. Biobank to see if there was a link between eating processed meats and dementia. In this March 2021 study, they discovered that eating just 25 grams of processed meat a day can increase the risk of dementia by 44 percent. That 25 grams is about three slices of bacon, a typical serving of processed meat.  

This study was on data in the U.K. Biobank from 2006 to 2010. They asked participants which kinds of meats they ate and how often. The study's researchers followed up with the participants after eight years and found that 2,896 of them had dementia, 1,006 had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, and 490 with vascular dementia. 

Researchers discovered that those who ate more processed meat were also more likely to be male, smokers, overweight or obese, ate fewer fruits and vegetables, and ate more calories, fat, and protein. While genes also play a role in the dementia risk factor, the study found that the risk of dementia from eating processed meat was the same whether someone had a family history of dementia or not.

There are 10 million new cases of dementia every year, with about 50 million people worldwide currently diagnosed with this disease. Dementia is caused by diet, lifestyle, and genetics. You can't control your genes, but you can control what you eat

What is processed meat?

Now that you know that you should stay away from processed meats to reduce your dementia risk, you might be wondering what processed meat is. Processed meat is treated with salt and chemicals and includes just about anything you'll find at the deli or a fast-food restaurant. Processed meat includes dried meat like jerky, hot dogs, sausages, pepperoni, pancetta, chicken nuggets, hamburgers, cured and salted meat like bacon and ham, smoked meat, and any canned meat — Vienna sausages, corned beef, deviled ham (via WebMD and Healthline). 

Unprocessed meats are beef, pork, lamb, and other meat that has not been treated with salt, smoke, chemicals, or other preservatives. You can find these in your grocery store's meat or butcher section or at a local farmer's market, although you'll still need to check the label to make sure it hasn't been processed in any way. 

Processed meat can increase your cholesterol, leading to diabetes and heart disease, increase your risk of death and increase your risk of colorectal cancer. Always check your ingredients to see what is going in the food you eat. 

The recent large study on a link between processed meat and dementia is a good start, but more studies are still needed to understand these links. This will help you stay healthier and reduce your risk of dementia and other diseases.