elderly woman and care giver
Julie Hambleton
Julie Hambleton
March 14, 2024 ·  5 min read

Popcorn May Have a Connection to Lower Risk of Dementia: Study

In a groundbreaking study published in the journal Neurology, researchers from Rush University in Chicago have shed light on a potential link between consuming popcorn and reducing the risk of dementia. The study also highlights the broader association between whole grains and lower dementia risk. As the prevalence of dementia continues to rise, these findings offer hope for preventing cognitive decline through simple dietary modifications.

The Study: Popcorn and Dementia

Who ever thought that the world’s favorite movie snack could also have amazing dementia-fighting properties? The study conducted by Dr. Xiaoran Liu and his team aimed to investigate the relationship between whole grain consumption, including popcorn, and cognitive decline. The researchers observed a cohort of 3,326 participants with an average age of 75, all of whom were dementia-free at the start of the study. Over a period of approximately six years, participants’ diets were assessed, cognitive and memory tests were conducted, and their overall cognitive performance was evaluated. (1)

Popcorn and Cognitive Health

One of the key findings of the study was that individuals who incorporated more whole grains into their diet, including popcorn, demonstrated a remarkable 8.5-year delay in cognitive aging compared to those who consumed smaller amounts. Whole grains, rich in nutrients, vitamins, and antioxidants, have long been recognized for their health benefits, including promoting cardiovascular health. This study suggests that they may also offer protective effects against cognitive decline.

Dr. Liu, the study’s lead author, expressed excitement regarding the potential impact of whole grains on dementia risk reduction. Substituting a couple of servings of refined grains with whole grains in daily meals could potentially lower the risk of dementia. Notably, one serving of whole grains was defined as one ounce of food, such as a slice of bread, half a cup of cooked pasta or rice, an ounce of crackers, or a cup of dry cereal.

“It’s exciting to see that people could potentially lower their risk of dementia by increasing their diet of whole grains by a couple of servings a day.” said Dr. Liu. (2)

Read More: Parents Warn Others About Popcorn After Their Son Was Admitted Into Surgery

The Role of Whole Grains in Dementia Risk Reduction

The association between whole grains and lower dementia risk can be attributed to their nutritional composition. Whole grains are abundant in vitamin B, vitamin E, fiber, and various antioxidants. The protective benefits of these elements have been extensively linked to heart health and now show promise in relation to brain health. Maintaining a diet rich in whole grains, along with other nutrient-dense foods, has been associated with lowering cholesterol, insulin levels, and blood pressure – all of which are essential for optimizing overall cognitive function.

“Whole grains are rich in vitamin B and E, and other antioxidants. They have a lot of fiber, which has been linked to a lot of health benefits, particularly related to brain health,” Dr. Liu expressed in a statement. “So, we do see a lot of evidence in terms of whole grains being protective in lowering heart disease risk, and we know what’s good for the heart may also be good for the brain.” (3)

Furthermore, the study found that Black participants were more likely to consume higher quantities of whole grains than their white counterparts. This is significant as whole grains have been shown to possess significant health benefits for individuals of all ethnic backgrounds. It is essential to encourage diverse populations to incorporate whole grains into their diets as part of a holistic approach to promote cognitive well-being.

Not All Popcorn is Made Equal

Yes, popcorn is a whole grain and yes, it can be a very healthy snack. Its health benefits go out the window, however, if it comes doused in salt, butter, artificial seasonings, and/or sugar. The best way to enjoy popcorn is to make it yourself. You can do this by popping your own kernels in a pot on the stove or in an air popper. If you don’t have either of these appliances, you can also use a microwave-safe bowl with a lid and some oil (or butter) to make your own microwave popcorn. The key here is when flavoring your popcorn, go lightly and do it yourself. That’s right, you should probably still be skipping out on heavily buttered movie theater popcorn.

Implications and Future Research

The outcomes of this study provide valuable insights into the potential role of popcorn and other whole grains in reducing the risk of dementia. However, further research is needed to confirm and expand upon these findings. Research efforts supported by respected institutions such as the Alzheimer’s Association and the National Institutes of Health will help solidify the connection between whole grain intake and cognitive health. Moreover, future studies may explore whether specific compounds within popcorn and other whole grains possess neuroprotective properties.

As awareness of the benefits of whole grains continues to grow, these findings could pave the way for tailored dietary recommendations. Encouraging individuals to incorporate more whole grains, such as whole wheat bread, brown rice, quinoa, and, importantly, popcorn, into their daily meals may be a simple yet impactful step toward lowering the risk of dementia and promoting overall brain health.

The Bottom Line

The study linking popcorn consumption to a lower risk of dementia offers a tantalizing possibility for dementia prevention strategies. By incorporating whole grains, including popcorn, into our diets, we may be able to delay cognitive aging and reduce the incidence of cognitive decline. As further research unfolds, it is important to consider the broader benefits that whole grains offer for our overall health and well-being.

Read More: 5 Reasons To Skip on Microwave Popcorn


  1. Association of Whole Grain Consumption and Cognitive Decline.” Neurology. Xiaoran Liu, Todd Beck, MSc, Klodian Dhana, MD, PhD, Pankaja Desai, Kristin R. Krueger, PhD, Christy C. Tangney, PhD, MS, BA , Thomas M. Holland , Puja Agarwal, PhD , Denis A. Evans, PhD and Kumar B. Rajan, PhD. November 22, 2023
  2. Adding this popular snack to daily diet reduces dementia risk: study.” NY Post. Brooke Kato. November 24, 2023.
  3. Eating More Whole Grains Is Associated With Less Memory Decline in African Americans.” Rush.
    November 22, 2023.