Dementia – the deterioration of our cognitive functions and gradual loss of abilities such as memory, decision-making and problem solving – is a condition that doctors and scientists have long been searching for a way to cure or prevent. Now it seems that Swedish researchers have a found a new factor that influences the risk of suffering from dementia: Chewing ability.
A team researchers at Karolinska Institutet and from Karlstad University in Sweden looked at tooth loss, chewing ability and cognitive function in a group of 557 people aged 77 or older. Comparing all the data, they found that among those who had difficulty chewing hard food such as apples there was a much higher risk of developing dementia. The connection between chewing ability and dementia risk was not related to variables such as sex, age, education and mental health problems which have also been reported to influence the dementia risk. Whether the chewing ability was maintained with dentures or with natural did not effect the dementia risk either. As long as the person was able to chew well, the dementia risk was lower.
There is still no clear answer as to why chewing ability has an impact on the dementia risk. One theory is that a lower chewing ability means less blood flow to the brain. The question of the exact connection must be further researched.
Our chewing ability is linked to the number and quality of our teeth. A loss of chewing ability could be the cause of numerous cavities or periodontitis, which can all be prevented through adequate dental hygiene.
Duangjai Lexomboon, Mats Trulsson, Inger Wårdh & Marti G. Parker: Chewing Ability and Tooth Loss: Association with Cognitive Impairment in an Elderly Population Study
Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 4 October 2012