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It’s not necessarily the daily apple that staves off mental decline – it’s the ability to bite into one and chew it up, according to new research from Sweden. Investigators found that tooth loss that compromises the ability to chew is associated with loss of cognitive function and a higher than normal risk of dementia. They suggested that chewing problems stemming from being toothless or having few teeth may lead to a reduced flow of blood to the brain (although this hasn’t been independently studied).
When the investigators correlated tooth loss, the ability to chew and cognitive function in a random sample of 557 men and women age 77 or older, they found that those who had trouble chewing hard foods such as apples had a significantly higher risk of developing cognitive impairments. It didn’t matter whether having natural teeth or dentures made chewing possible. Chewing ability was associated with cognitive function regardless of sex, age, education and mental health problems, the researchers reported.