Researchers have discovered that how they combine unhealthy food options on the same plate plays as big a part in setting their risk of illness as the food choices they make.
At the heart of the problem are processed meats, such as sausages, which almost everyone who went on to develop dementia, at least, were eating regularly. But what they were eating with the meats seemed to affect the risk just as much, say researchers at the University of Bordeaux in France.
In a study of 209 people with dementia, whose diets were compared against 418 people without the disease, the researchers found that those most likely to develop dementia were adding starchy foods, such as potatoes, and snacking on biscuits and cakes afterwards.
The number of times that people were eating sausages and mash, for instance, was just as big a risk factor as eating processed meats on their own. People who ate processed meats regularly, but who accompanied that with healthier options such as vegetables, seafood or fruit, ran a smaller risk of developing dementia.
Diversity is the key, said lead researcher Cecilia Samiere. Including healthier options into the diet, even one that centred around processed meats, reduces your chances of developing dementia.