While enjoying your favorite cereal may bring back memories of watching morning cartoons over a bowl, indulging in your childhood breakfast may actually raise your risk of dementia.

study published in the journal General Psychiatry found a link between thiamine, which is commonly found in cereals, and cognitive decline in otherwise healthy people as they age. 

Thiamine, or vitamin B1, is found naturally in some foods, while it is added to others and sold as a supplement. It helps to turn food into energy and fuel the body’s nervous system. 

Sources of the vitamin include whole grains, legumes, liver, salmon and fortified breakfast cereals. In the US, thiamine can be found in common cereal brands like Kellogg’s and General Mills. 

However, research has now found a strong association between too-little and too-much consumption of thiamine and cognitive decline.

The ‘sweet spot’ of the amount of thiamine to consume, according to the research, is 0.68mg per day – calling into question the US government’s recommended daily value of the vitamin.

Sources of thiamine include whole grains, legumes, liver, salmon and fortified breakfast cereals.

Sources of thiamine include whole grains, legumes, liver, salmon and fortified breakfast cereals.

Researchers said: ‘Thiamine deficiency may lead to an insufficient supply of energy to the neurons of the brain… which may impair cognitive function… our study highlights the importance of maintaining optimal dietary thiamine intake levels in the general older population to prevent cognitive decline.’

The study looked at data from the China Health and Nutrition Survey (CHNS), which included 3,100 people between 1989 and 2011 who reported their diet from and took cognitive tests four times from 1997 to 2006.

The average age of a study subject was 63 and tests included word recall and number pattern challenges. 

Over the course of follow-ups, researchers found a J-shaped curve association between thiamine consumption and a decline in scores on the cognitive tests. 

The J-shaped curve means that two little of thiamine or too much of it can have adverse effects, but a ‘sweet spot,’ or ideal amount, exists along the curve. 

The average thiamine intake among study subjects was 0.93 mg per day. The J-shape curve revealed the ideal amount was 0.68 mg per day, but that a range between 0.6 mg and 1.00 mg per day had minimal risks.

However, every 1.0 mg per day above the safe limit of 0.68 mg was associated with a fall of 4.24 points on the global cognitive score. 

The daily value recommended by the Food and Drug Administration is 1.2 mg of thiamine per day for people four years and older and the National Institutes of Health report that just one serving of a fortified breakfast cereal contains 1.2 mg of thiamine.

The associations researchers observed were stronger in people who were obese, had high blood pressure or did not smoke. 

The global cognitive score ranges from zero to 27, meaning a decline of about four points is a decline in cognitive function of at least 15 percent. 

A separate study looking at the health effects of another vitamin B – niacin, or vitamin B3 – found it was associated with heart attacks, strokes and cardiac conditions. 

Similar to thiamine, niacin is also in breakfast cereals and ‘enriched’ or ‘fortified’ products. 

The researchers stressed that more studies need to be done on the subject, as thiamine has a host of health benefits, including strengthening the immune system, regulating diabetes, aiding digestion, promoting heart health and increasing energy. 

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