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Health & Fitness Dementia: The 'afternoon snack' that may increase your risk of Alzheimer's - study warning

11:32  23 january  2022
11:32  23 january  2022 Source:   express.co.uk

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Dementia is an umbrella term for symptoms associated with worsening brain decline. The main cause is Alzheimer's disease, which is characterised by an abnormal build-up of proteins in and around brain cells. Unfortunately, there is no cure for Alzheimer's but evidence increasingly points to risk factors.

Research published in Alzheimer's & Dementia, the journal of the Alzheimer's Association, refined carbohydrates can increase your risk of dementia.

Refined carbohydrates, also known as "simple" carbs, refer to sugars (e.g. glucose, fructose, sucrose) or anything made from grains which have had the fibrous wheat germ and bran removed.

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Refined carbohydrates score high on the glycaemic index (GI) - a rating system for foods containing carbohydrates.

Equipped with this knowledge, researchers quantified the glycaemic load (GL) in 2777 elderly participants from the French Three-City Study (3C Study) to estimate refined carbohydrate intake.

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Refined carbohydrates may increase Alzheimer's risk © Getty Images Refined carbohydrates may increase Alzheimer's risk

The 3C Study is a population-based longitudinal study of the relation between vascular diseases and dementia in persons aged 65 years and older.

Then, the associations between GL and risk of dementia and Alzheimer's, and the interaction with APOE-ε4 over a 12-year period were assessed.

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APOE ε4 is called a risk-factor gene because it increases a person's risk of developing Alzheimer's.

After adjustment for potential confounders, "high afternoon-snack GL was associated with increased dementia and AD risk in APOE-ε4 carriers", the researchers concluded.

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They added: "This study highlights that refined carbohydrate-rich diets are a risk factor for dementia and AD in APOE-ε4 carriers."

Why are refined carbs harmful?

Although the exact mechanisms that may lead to dementia are unclear, refined carbohydrates can negatively impact your body in a number of ways.

One way is through undermining insulin production.

Holland and Barrett explains: "All refined carbohydrates are made up of short chains of molecules, which are rapidly and easily converted to glucose in your body, causing a sudden blood sugar raise, or 'spike', soon after eating.

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The Mediterranean diet may bring cognitive benefits © Getty Images The Mediterranean diet may bring cognitive benefits

"This causes your body to produce lots of insulin to allow the glucose to enter your body's cells to be used as energy."

An overabundance of insulin can lead to insulin resistance - a precursor to diabetes.

"Regular consumption of refined carbs can also lead to weight gain," warns Holland and Barrett.

According to the health body, this is due to a number of factors - mainly that refined carbs leave you hungrier and more prone to snacking and overeating.

How to reduce dementia risk © Getty Images How to reduce dementia risk

Refined carbohydrates include:

  • Sugar-sweetened foods such as cakes, biscuits, sweets and pastries
  • Fizzy drinks and some fruit juices and smoothies.
  • White pasta and white bread
  • White rice
  • Sweetened breakfast cereals, cereal bars and energy bars.

What you should eat to reduce your risk of dementia

According to the National Institute of Aging, the Mediterranean diet, the related MIND diet (which includes elements designed to lower blood pressure), and other healthy eating patterns have been associated with cognitive benefits in studies.

The Mediterranean diet is high in vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, beans, cereals, grains, fish, and unsaturated fats such as olive oil. It usually includes a low intake of meat and dairy foods.

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