Eating just one bacon rasher a day may increase risk of dementia by 44 percent - study

Eating a rasher of bacon every morning may be dramatically increasing your chances of developing dementia, according to a new study.

Researchers at the University of Leeds found that having just one 25g serving of processed meat - which is equivalent to a rasher of bacon - every day is associated with a 44 percent increased risk of developing the disease. 

While meat-lovers may be reeling at the finding, the study also found that eating some unprocessed meat such as beef, pork, or veal could actually protect against the disease. 

To determine the link, the Leeds team used data from a group of half a million people aged between 40 to 69 in the UK Biobank, a database containing in-depth genetic and health information.

The database included information on how often participants consumed different types of meat, with six options from 'once per day' to 'never'. 

Participants were then studied over eight years from 2006 to 2011, during which researchers found 2896 participants went on to develop dementia.

Data examination revealed eating 25g of processed meat per day increased a person's added risk of developing dementia by 44 percent, no matter what other factors were in play. 

Some who developed the disease were three to six times more likely to do so due to genetic factors, but the findings suggest risks from eating processed meat were the same whether or not a person was genetically predisposed.

Meat consumption has already been linked to dementia in the past but this study is believed to be the first that examines a link between specific amounts and specific types of meat. The data also shows those who ate 50g of non-processed meat a day - such as beef, pork, or veal - were 19 percent less likely to develop dementia. 

Around 50 million people across the globe have dementia, with around 10 million cases diagnosed every year. 

"Worldwide, the prevalence of dementia is increasing and diet as a modifiable factor could play a role," says lead researcher Huifeng Zhang.

"Our research adds to the growing body of evidence linking processed meat consumption, to increased risk of a range of non-transmissible diseases."

The study didn't assess the impact a vegan or vegetarian diet has on dementia. 

Those who ate higher amounts of processed meat were more likely to be male, less educated, smokers, overweight or obese, had lower intakes of vegetables and fruits, and had higher intakes of energy, protein, and fat, which the study accounted for. 

Zhang said "further confirmation" of the results was needed but the "direction of effect is linked to current healthy eating guidelines suggesting lower intakes of unprocessed red meat could be beneficial for health."

According to the Daily Telegraph other scientists have criticised the study.

Professor Robert Howard, an expert in ageing at University College London said the data "wouldn't persuade" him to "give up " his breakfast bacon - warning the sample size of 3000 cases of dementia was relatively small. 

The findings were published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.