Imagine digging into a juicy Reuben sandwich with a side of potato chips and a can of soda. Sure, it's absolute heaven. But would you belly up to the same spread if you knew eating these delicious things carried serious neurological health risks?
Unfortunately, a diet with lots of meat and processed foods is strongly linked to developing Alzheimer's Disease, according to a new study published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.
Scientists at Australia's Bond University found this "strong correlation" by studying the eating habits of 438 people. Of this cohort, 108 participants were diagnosed with Alzheimer's and the rest didn't have the condition.
The researchers arrived at their conclusion after they performed statistical analysis using data from the Australian Imaging Biomarker and Lifestyle Study of Aging, according to a statement about the research. Basically, they tracked what participants were eating to establish any links to developing Alzheimer's later on.
Overall, patients with Alzheimer's tended to eat a diet rich in "processed food and meat items." The foodstuff they regularly ingested included beef, meat pies, sausages, ham, hamburgers and pizza — basically a mall food court's worth of delicious grub.
Compared to the healthy cohort, they also tended to eat less fruits and vegetables — and, intriguingly, drank wine at lower rates as well.
The study appears to be a cautionary tale: eating a decadent diet that's heavy on processed meat could spell serious trouble later on.
"Alzheimer's development in the brain begins in middle age and its effects can be attributed to an uncontrolled lifestyle from a younger age," said lead author and biostatistics doctoral student Tahera Ahmed in the statement. "Raising awareness among the youth about the benefits of consuming leafy greens, organic foods, or home-cooked meals is essential, as opposed to regularly indulging in junk or processed foods."
This study is part of an ever-growing corpus of research that shows that what we eat may impact whether we develop dementia or Alzheimer's later in life.
Exactly why is somewhat hazy. It may be that eating fatty and processed foods increases inflammation and oxidation inside our bodies, leading to brains that don't function the way they should. Or there could be a different mechanism that isn't yet understood, since an explanation for Alzheimer's itself still eludes doctors. And researchers are also trying to see if the makeup of our gut biome might influence the trajectory of our brain health.
Meanwhile, if you're thinking about lunch while reading this blog post, perhaps you should opt for a salad.
More on dementia: New Drug Hailed as "Turning Point" in Fight Against Alzheimer's Disease