(Taiwan News photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) The Taiwan Advanced Cultural Association (TACA) held a public welfare activity on Tuesday (Oct. 22) highlighting new findings that appear to show a correlation between chewing ability and prevention of dementia in senior citizens.

The World Health Organization’s (WHO) definition of an aged society is when more than 14 percent of its population is over 65 years old. Taiwan became an aged society in 2018 and is set to be super-aged by 2026 when at least 20 percent of the population is age 65 or older.

TACA Chairman Kobe Chih (池國平) said that this forecast represents a pressing issue for the Taiwanese government. As such, it is important for the government to plan programs aimed at enhancing the health of senior citizens and reducing the tremendous costs of the country’s long-term healthcare plan.

Research seems to show that strengthening one’s ability to chew can lower the risk of dementia and memory loss. Therefore, Chih urged the public to focus more on oral health.

Besides keeping a balanced diet and paying attention to oral hygiene, it is also important to strengthen the chewing muscles, said Chih. To this end, he recommended that elderly people eat more crunchy nutritious foods like walnuts and green soybeans.

Multiple international research organizations suggest that sugar-free gum can maintain oral health and improve chewing ability, Chih added.

Dr. Allen Hsu (許明倫), dean of National Yang-Ming University’s School of Dentistry, said that the ability to chew and swallow gradually decreases with age. Additionally, if oral health decreases, then there is a greater risk of aspiration pneumonia, a lung infection brought on by inhaling food.

Hsu cited research that appears to confirm that strong chewing capabilities will help lower the risks of dementia and prevent symptoms of aging. Thus, he encourages the elderly to practice chewing regularly.

Taiwan Vice President Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁), an epidemiologist by training, said that dementia and muscle atrophy are preventable diseases and not a natural phenomenon of aging. Chen said Taiwan has cultivated a good reputation for having a well-rounded national health insurance scheme and hepatitis prevention systems, adding that he hoped strides made in oral health will become another accomplishment Taiwan can be proud of in the future.