Sat, Oct 26, 2019 - Page 4 News List

Chewing thwarts dementia: study

By Wu Hsin-tien and Dennis Xie  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Local researchers have confirmed that chewing can prevent brain degeneration, suggesting that Taiwan, on track to become a super-aged society by 2025, should focus more on oral healthcare to prevent dementia.

The Taiwan Advanced Cultural Association held a news conference on Tuesday to promote chewing and swallowing as a means for preventing dementia.

Hsu Ming-lun (許明倫), dean of Yang-Ming University’s School of Dentistry, led the study into the association between gray matter in the brain and chewing ability.

The team’s findings won them the first prize in a poster competition held last year by the International Association for Dental Research.

Young people chew and swallow instinctively — as they rely more on the cerebellum when chewing, enabling them to eat and talk without thinking — but eating for older people requires thinking — as they rely more on the cerebrum, with chewing transpiring at a slower rate and talking while eating can even cause them to choke or get aspiration pneumonia, Hsu said.

With aging comes declines in brain cells and damage to gray matter, both of which lead to cognitive impairment and memory loss, he added.

The team studied people aged 65 and older, assessing their chewing ability by determining the arrangement of their teeth and the force of their bites, as measured by a machine.

They used functional magnetic resonance imaging to compare the subjects’ gray matter volume and distribution and found that the better the subject chewed, the less their brain degenerated.

Another experiment done by the team supported the results: Two groups of rats — one fed liquid food and the other solid food — showed a 40 percent difference in cognitive function over six weeks.

A common disease among those who are aging, sarcopenia — loss of skeletal muscle mass, quality and strength — highlights the importance of training the muscles needed for chewing and swallowing, Hsu said.

While nuts are healthy for older people, most are too hard for them to chew, so giving older people walnuts, which are softer, is an ideal alternative, he said.

Sugar-free gum and oral exercises benefit oral health, too, Hsu added.

“While Taiwan has become the world leader in national healthcare and hepatitis B prevention, we should also strive to be the leader in oral healthcare,” said Vice President Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁), who also attended the news conference.

Dementia and disability are preventable diseases, so older people can maintain an active and healthy lifestyle by taking proper healthcare measures, Chen added.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top