Health

Dementia warning: The butter alternative that may raise your risk of brain decline

Dementia's destructive effects have galvanised the scientific community to find ways to prevent or cure it. Both these goals are a long way off but progress has been made in shedding light on the risk factors. Much is still to be understood about the complex mechanisms that cause progressive brain damage but unhealthy lifestyle habits are strongly associated with it.

Evidence suggests what is good for the heart is good for the brain.

This has led health experts to advise a heart-healthy diet to reduce the risk of dementia.

Some unhealthy items seemingly slip through the net, however, said David Wiener, Training Specialist at AI-based fitness and lifestyle coaching app Freeletics.

Despite being highly processed and full of chemicals, margarine has remained a popular alternative to butter for many people, he said.

Trans fats are a form of processed (hydrogenated) cooking oil typically found in margarine, which have been identified as one of the most dangerous food additives.

Research has directly associated the food additive with an increased risk of developing Alzheimer's disease or dementia from any cause.

According to a study published in the journal Neurology, people with higher levels of trans fats in their blood may be 50 percent to 75 percent more likely to develop Alzheimer's disease or dementia from any cause.

To arrive at this conclusion, over 1,600 Japanese men and women without dementia were followed over a 10-year period.


A blood test for trans fat levels was done at the start of the study and their diets were analysed.

Researchers then adjusted for other factors that could affect the risk of dementia, such as high blood pressure, diabetes and smoking.

They found that people with the two highest levels of trans fats were 52 percent and 74 percent more likely to develop dementia than those with the lowest levels.

"The study used blood marker levels of trans fats, rather than more traditionally used dietary questionnaires, which increases the scientific validity of the results," said neurologist Dr. Richard Isaacson, director of the Alzheimer's Prevention Clinic at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York.


"This study is important as it builds upon prior evidence that dietary intake of trans fats can increase risk of Alzheimer's dementia," said Isaacson, who was also not involved in the study.

What other foods contain trans fats?

Trans fats have typically been present in the following:

Vegetable oilsCakesDoughnutsPastriesIce creamBreadFast foodHow do I know if I have dementia?

Dementia symptoms may include problems with:

Memory lossThinking speedMental sharpness and quicknessLanguage, such as using words incorrectly, or trouble speakingUnderstandingJudgementMoodMovementDifficulties doing daily activities

"People with dementia can lose interest in their usual activities, and may have problems managing their behaviour or emotions," adds the NHS.



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