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Diet and Dementia

Diets high in inflammatory foods found to triple dementia risk.

Graphic of diet and dementia

A paper from researchers in Greece published in Neurology reported that people who eat a pro-inflammatory diet are far more likely to suffer from dementia, compared with those eating a diet lower in inflammation-promoting foods.

The authors divided 1,059 nondemented men and women, mean age 73, into three groups based on high-, medium- and low-inflammatory diet scores. (These scores were determined based on previous studies of foods and nutrients associated with the inflammatory biomarkers.) After 3 years, every one-point increase in dietary inflammatory score was associated with a 21% increase in the chances of developing dementia during this time. Subjects in the highest tertile of pro-inflammatory diet potential were three times more likely to develop dementia.

A gradual risk increase across higher tertiles suggested a dose-response relationship between the inflammatory potential of diet and the incidence of dementia. People with the best anti-inflammatory scores consistently ate more fruits, vegetables and legumes (about 20, 19 and 4 servings per week, respectively), while eating less red meat, processed meats, fried foods and foods with higher added sugars.

While it would have been useful if serum levels of inflammatory biomarkers were obtained from participants, this appears to be more evidence that certain foods, nutrients and non-nutrient food components can modulate inflammatory status acutely and chronically, which can impact brain health.

See also: Healthy Lifestyle and Dementia

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD, is a James Beard Award–winning food journalist, dietitian and author of the cookbook Rocket Fuel: Power-Packed Food for Sport + Adventure (VeloPress 2016). He has written for dozens of magazines, including Runner’s World, Men’s Health, Shape, Men’s Fitness and Muscle and Fitness.

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