By Luke Andrews, health reporter for Dailymail.Com
13:58 November 23, 2023, updated 14:16 November 23, 2023
People who eat a packet of popcorn a day may be less likely to suffer from dementia, a study suggests.
Researchers at Rush University in Chicago made the discovery after following 3,300 people for six years and testing their cognition.
They found that those who ate three ounces or more of whole grains (such as lightly salted popcorn, quinoa, or cereal) a day had a smaller reduction in their cognitive scores compared to those who barely ate those foods.
The researchers only observed the effect in black participants, who made up 60 percent of the study participants.
They may not have seen the same in white participants because there were too few of them in the study or because they were much less likely to eat whole grains overall than their peers.
Whole grains are very rich in fiber, which slows the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream.
This prevents sugar spikes, which can cause plaque in the arteries and inflammation that increases the risk of dementia.
This comes after researchers also found that eating just one bowl of frozen flakes per day could increase the risk of mouth and throat cancer by up to 25 per cent.
More than six million Americans have dementia, but this number is expected to double in the next two decades.
Older black adults are more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with the condition, which experts say may be related to the group having higher rates of heart disease.
Revealed: Science-backed diet said to reduce dementia risk
In an attempt to reduce dementia rates, American researchers created a diet that has been shown to preserve brain health and reduce the risk of this memory-robbing disease.
For the study, published today in Neurology, scientists analyzed data from 3,300 adults who had an average age of 75 and did not have dementia.
All had participated in the Chicago Health and Aging Project, which followed 10,000 people between 1993 and 2012.
They were surveyed every three years about how often they ate whole grains and were also asked to complete cognitive and memory tests.
These included tasks such as having to remember a list of words, remembering numbers and putting them back in the correct order.
The participants were then divided into five groups based on the amount of whole grains they had consumed and their cognitive scores were compared.
This ranged from a group where adults consumed less than half a serving (or half an ounce) of whole grains per day to those who consumed three servings or more.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend at least three servings of whole foods a day, with one serving being equal to one ounce, such as a slice of bread or half a cup of cooked pasta or rice.
After adjusting for factors such as age, sex, education and smoking, the researchers found that those who ate three or more whole grains a day had a slower rate of cognitive decline than those who ate less.
Cognitive impairment is an early feature of dementia.
They also found that black participants were more likely to eat more whole grains than white participants.
Of the black participants, 68 percent reported eating more than one serving of whole grains per day. In comparison, among white participants this dropped to 38 percent.
Researchers weren’t sure why eating whole grains reduced the risk of dementia, but said this could be related to how it helps regulate blood sugar or promote a healthy gut.
They said this would help reduce the risk of inflammation and damage to blood vessels, which can increase the risk of developing dementia.
People who eat whole grains are also more likely to lead a healthy lifestyle, such as sleeping or exercising more, which also helps reduce the risk of dementia.
The study was observational and could not prove that eating popcorn alone reduced the risk of dementia.
It also did not consider the toppings put on popcorn, such as butter and sugar, which can increase the risk of dementia by increasing the risk of obesity.
Limitations of the study include that the diets were self-reported and participants were not asked to provide evidence of which whole grains they consumed.
Dr. Xiaoran Liu, an epidemiologist who led the research, said, “With Alzheimer’s disease and dementia affecting millions of Americans, finding ways to prevent the disease is a high public health priority.”
“It’s exciting to see that people could potentially reduce their risk of dementia by increasing their whole grain diet by a couple of servings a day.”