Research shows that improving diet and activity levels can reduce the risk of dementia

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Eating natural, unprocessed foods and being active and having a good social life are ways to fight dementia as you age, according to two new studies published Wednesday in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

One study, for example, looked at how physical and mental activity, housework, exercise and visiting with family and friends can reduce the risk of dementia. Another study looked at the effect of eating highly processed foods on future dementia risk.

More than 500,000 people have taken part in the UK Biobank, which contains in-depth genetic and health information about how they climb the stairs, or ride a bike, what tasks they do at home or work, or whether they play strenuous sport.

People in the same group were asked about their level of education and whether they attended adult education classes, how often they visited with friends and family, and how often they participated in social clubs or religious groups. They then answered questions about the extent of their electronic use, such as playing computer games, watching television, and using smartphones.

The participants were followed for 11 years to see if they developed dementia.

Researchers found that people who engaged in activity patterns such as frequent exercise had a 35% lower risk of developing dementia compared to people who did at least this activity.

Doing housework regularly reduced the risk by 21%, and daily visits with family and friends reduced the risk of dementia by 15% compared to those who did less. A study found that going to pubs increases the risk.

“Social activity is a form of cognitive stimulation and helps build cognitive reserve, which in part explains how it protects against dementia,” said Dr. Kellyanne Niotis, a neurologist at the Alzheimer’s Prevention Clinic at Weill Cornell Medicine and New York-Presbyterian, was not involved in the study.

People who engage in regular social activities have more memory-protective proteins and a sense of meaning in life — all of which are important for brain health. As a bonus, exercising with others can increase everyone’s benefits, she said.

The researchers found that all study participants, regardless of whether they had a family history of dementia, benefited from the protective effects of physical and mental activity.

A major limitation of the study is that people were asked to recall their actions without being objectively observed, and they were only asked about their behavior once at the beginning of the study.

“More research is needed to confirm our findings. However, our results encourage that this simple lifestyle change may be beneficial,” says study author Dr. This was reported by Professor Huang Song of Sichuan University in Chengdu, China.

Replacing ultra-processed foods such as biscuits, ice cream and chips with unprocessed, whole foods can help fight dementia, new research from the UK Biobank has found.

“The results show that not only are highly processed foods bad for brain health, but eliminating them from the diet can improve cognitive outcomes and reduce the risk of dementia,” said Niotis, who was not involved in the study.

Ultra-processed foods are typically high in added fat, salt, and sugar, and low in protein and fiber.

“(Researchers) found that replacing 20% ​​of the weight of ultra-processed foods in the diet with an equivalent proportion of unprocessed/minimally processed foods was associated with a 34% reduction in dementia and a 39% reduction in vascular dementia (but not Alzheimer’s disease),” wrote Boston University. in an accompanying editorial by Maura Walker, assistant professor of medicine, and Nicole Spartano, assistant professor of medicine at the University School of Medicine. They did not participate in the study.

Minimally processed and unprocessed foods are defined as whole foods that retain vitamins and nutrients. Raw and frozen vegetables, whole grains, vegetables and legumes, fruits, nuts, meats, seafood, herbs, spices, garlic, eggs and milk fall into this category.

“Our results also show that increasing unprocessed or minimally processed foods by just 50 grams per day, which is equivalent to half an apple, a serving of corn or a cup of white cereal, while reducing ultra-processed foods by 50 grams per day. “Equivalent to a bar of chocolate or a stick of fish can reduce the risk of dementia by 3%,” Huiping Li of the Institute of Nutritional Epidemiology at Tianjin Medical University in China said in a statement.

“It is encouraging to know that small and manageable changes in diet can alter a person’s risk of dementia,” Lee said. The study was only able to establish an association, not causation, and further research is needed.

Ultra-processed foods go through multiple processes during production and may contain many additional ingredients to improve flavor and extend shelf life. Examples include soft drinks, hot dogs, French fries, sweet breakfast foods, packaged soups, chicken nuggets, candy, chips, ice cream – the list goes on.

“Ultra-processed foods are meant to be convenient and tasty (but) these foods may contain food additives or molecules that are removed from packaging or produced during heating, all of which other studies have shown have negative effects on thinking and memory. ” said Lee.

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