Those who consumed higher amounts of processed meat were more likely to be male, less educated, smokers, overweight or obese, had lower intakes of vegetables and fruits, and had higher intakes of energy, protein, and fat (including saturated fat).
Meat consumption has previously been associated with dementia risk, but this is believed to be the first large-scale study of participants over time to examine a link between specific meat types and amounts, and the risk of developing the disease.
Ms Zhang said: “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.”
Professor Cade, who supervised the research, 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.”