Saturday Kitchen Live: Ed Balls discusses his mother's dementia

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Walk into the fruit aisle of a local supermarket and one will be welcomed by a bevy of fruits, each with their own attractions and benefits. Among these will be citrus fruits, common accoutrements to a variety of meals.

It is this fruits which the study suggests could help reduce the risk of dementia by 23 percent. These conclusions were reached after study of over 13,000 participants in a Japanese study.

They found those who ate citrus fruits every day were significantly less likely to develop dementia in the succeeding six years than those who only ate them once or twice a week. The data in question for the study was taken from a Japanese long-term care insurance database.

Furthermore, the researchers adjusted for other factors such as the individual’s consumption of vegetables, other fruits, and overall health. As these factors varied, the relationship between citrus fruits and dementia didn’t vary greatly.

Writing in the journal, the authors concluded: “The present findings suggest that frequent citrus consumption was associated with a lower risk of incident dementia, even after adjustment for possible confounding factors.”

Examples of citrus fruits include:

  • Lemons
  • Oranges
  • Grapefruit
  • Limes
  • Tangerines
  • Clementines
  • Kumquats
  • Pomelos.

This study may cause one to think that citrus fruits are a silver bullet for reducing dementia risk, it is important to note a key caveat.

The first is that these was an observational study; this means it can only observe a potential link between two entities rather than draw a conclusion that there definitively is a link. This would only happen in a causational study.

As a result, the authors said more research needed to be done into the link between dementia and citrus fruit. However, although this study looks into dementia’s connection with eating, it isn’t the first.

Another study, this time published in the Life Metabolism journal, investigated the link between dementia risk and the time someone ate. Based on the China Nutrition Health Survey public database, the study analysed the temporal distribution of energy intake during a day (TPEI).

The authors stated: “In conclusion, we observed that maintaining balanced energy intake across three major meals was associated with significantly better cognitive function than the other five unevenly distributed patterns.

“In particular, breakfast skipping was associated with significantly worse cognitive function and faster cognitive decline over time. The observed associations were similar across major prespecified subgroups.”

They added: “Further studies are needed to confirm our findings in different populations and reveal the underlying mechanisms. If proven causal, these findings will add to the evidence for future public health recommendations on balanced TPEI for primary prevention of cognitive decline in the aging population.”

In common with the study published in the British Journal of Nutrition, there are a couple of limitations to the study results. As with the first report, this was an observational study, and the reason behind the need for more research.

The other limitation was the small nature of the research cohort, at just 3,342 participants. A greater number of people from across a diverse spectrum would be required for an accurate conclusion to be drawn.

Nevertheless, it does open up a potential insight into the impact of meal times on dementia risk and how it could form part of how someone reduces their likelihood of a disease which takes the lives of so many Britons every year.

Dementia is one of the world’s deadliest diseases, one which is currently incurable with few effective treatments available to fight the condition.

What is the dementia situation in the UK?

Dementia currently takes the lives of around 67,000 people in the UK every year, a number which will continue to grow with projections suggesting one in three people born today will develop dementia in their lifetime.

Currently, there is no cure for the condition and what treatments exist are limited. As a result, a lot of funding is being put into both preventative and reactive research.

Reactive research is that which looks for a cure for a condition while preventative research looks for ways people can reduce their risk and prevent or delay the onset of the disease.
As the former moves forward, the hope is that new treatments will be developed so that the potential wave of patients can either be saved or given more time with their loved ones.

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