One rasher of bacon a day increases the risk of dementia, experts warn

Bacon rasher increases dementia, Knife cutting through avocado toast with egg and bacon
(Image credit: Toby Mitchell Getty)

Eating one rasher of bacon a day can increase your chance of getting dementia, new research shows.

The tasty breakfast/brunch/dinner treat is so versatile, it can either be eaten on its own in a bacon sandwich, as part of traditional full-English breakfast and has even become part of the different brunch trends in recent years, with many now ordering it with avocado and poached eggs on toast. 

But did you know just eating one rasher of bacon a day, whether it's cooked in one of the best induction pans or grilled, could be putting you at greater risk of suffering from loss of memory, language, problem-solving, and other thinking abilities that are severe enough to interfere with daily life?

Research carried out as part of a new study, looked at data from 500k people to explore the link between meat and dementia and the results are staggering - people who ate 25g a day of processed meat had a 44% greater chance of developing the condition. 

Mid Adult Woman Eating Bacon Sandwich

(Image credit: Monkey Business Images Getty)

Professor Janet Cade, who supervised the research, carried out by Leeds University, said, "Anything we can do to explore potential risk factors for dementia may help us to reduce rates of this debilitating condition. This analysis is a first step towards understanding whether what we eat could influence that risk."

But it's not all doom and gloom. Before you go switching up your brunch choices, the study also showed that eating some unprocessed meat such as beef, pork, and veal can also protect against dementia. Those who consumed 50g a day of unprocessed meat, almost 20 per cent less likely to develop dementia.

Around 50 million dementia cases have been diagnosed globally, with around ten million new cases confirmed every year. Alzheimer's Disease makes up 50%-70% of cases, and vascular dementia around 25%.

Much-loved legendary actress Dame Barbara Windsor, 83, was diagnosed with Alzheimer's six years ago and she passed away last year after she lost her battle with dementia.

What are the key findings of the study which shows one bacon rasher increases risk of dementia?

  • The team studied data from the UK Biobank database containing genetic and health information from half a million Brits aged 40 to 69 between the years 2006 and 2010.
  • How often people snacked on different kinds of meat, with six options from never to once or more daily.
  • While vegetarian and vegan diets were not looked at specifically, the study included people who avoided red meat.
  • Within eight years, 2,900 cases of dementia emerged in people who were generally older, more economically deprived, less educated, more likely to smoke, less active, and had a history of stroke and dementia in their family.
  • It was also seen in people who were more likely to carry a dementia-related gene called the APOE gene, the team explained.
  • And more men than women were diagnosed with dementia in the study.

While meat consumption has previously been associated with increased dementia risk, this new study is the first large-scale of participants over time, to examine a link between different types of meat, the amounts eaten and the overall risk of developing the disease calculated.

Lead researcher Huifeng Zhang, a Ph.D. student at the University of Leeds, said, "Worldwide, the prevalence of dementia is increasing and diet as a modifiable factor could play a role. Our research adds to the growing body of evidence linking processed meat consumption to increased risk of a range of non-transmissible diseases."

He added, "Further confirmation is 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."

Cropped Hand Cooking Bacon On Stove In Kitchen

(Image credit: Rostislav Kuznetsov / EyeEm Getty)

But while the study, which published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition is said to be an important first step, the executive dean of medicine for the University of Exeter, not involved in the study, warned it was too small of a data set to over-interpret results on their own. 

He told the Sunday Times, "We should not assume from this research that one rasher of bacon a day increases your risk of dementia by 44% - it is simply not possible to demonstrate that in a study like this."

Selina Maycock
Selina Maycock

Selina is a Senior Entertainment Writer with more than 14 years of experience in newspapers and magazines. She currently looks after all things Entertainment for GoodtoKnow, Woman&Home and My Imperfect Life.

Before joining Future Publishing, Selina graduated from the University of Sheffield in 2006 with a degree in Journalism. She is fully NCTJ and NCE qualified and has 100wpm shorthand. Having spent the start of her career working on local newspapers and online, Selina spent six years as Acting News Editor and Entertainment Reporter at the Scunthorpe Telegraph where she dug into hard news stories, conducted interviews, covered court reporting, features, and entertainment, whilst going to gigs in her spare time.

Whilst at the paper she was awarded an O2 Media Judges' Special Award for helping a terminally ill cancer sufferer realise his dying wish and marry his childhood sweetheart through a successful newspaper campaign. Things like this are close to her heart when it comes to using journalism to make a positive difference in people's lives.

Selina later branched further into all things celebrity to became a Showbiz Writer at Heat magazine, covering red carpet events, showbiz parties, and various launches before going freelance for two years. One of her biggest celebrity achievements - aside from generating celebrity exclusives - was interviewing Take That (including Robbie Williams) and bumping into Simon Cowell so much at events she told him 'I'm calling you my showbiz dad!'

In 2017 she joined TI Media as a senior reporter on Woman, Woman's Own, Woman&Home, Woman's Weekly celebrity desk before branching online in 2020 when Future gave her the opportunity to focus on digital-first.

When she's not interviewing celebrities you can find her exploring new countryside walking routes, catching up with friends over good food, or making memories.