People who find it difficult to chew hard food are more likely to suffer from a cognitive decline than those who find it easy, an investigation has indicated.
A study, entitled Chewing Ability and Tooth Loss: Association with Cognitive Impairment in an Elderly Population and published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, revealed that people who find it hard to eat an apple could be at a significantly elevated risk of dementia.
In the future, expatriate medical insurance policies could use this discovery as a diagnostic tool to support the health of their customers.
A team of scientists from the Aging Research Centre and the Department of Odontology at Karolinska Insitutet and Karlstad University used a random sample of 557 Swedish people over the age of 77.
They revealed the correlation between food chewing ability and cognitive impairment remained when the study was controlled for risk factors such as age, education, sex and mental health problems.
Furthermore, whether or not the research subject was using dentures or their natural teeth had no impact on the correlation.
Previous studies had pointed to a link between a loss of cognitive function and a lack of teeth with dementia.
One of the hypotheses for this connection was that having no teeth could make it hard to chew, which would cause the brain to receive a reduced amount of blood flow, but before the most recent investigation, there had been no direct study into the importance of chewing ability that used a representative, national sample of elderly men and women.
Funding for the study came from several sources, including the Swedish Research Council and the Swedish Council for Working Life and Social Research.
People may be able to reduce their likelihood of developing dementia or cognitive impairment by keeping active, such as through exercise, knitting, crossword puzzles or travelling, the Alzheimer's Society states.