San Diego, CA. (WTNH) Some Connecticut researchers are taking part in the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference this week. Some eye-opening findings have been released on how long COVID-19 contributes to dementia, as well as a diet of processed foods and racism.

Scientists looked at long COVID and its effects on declining cognition. It turns out one symptom stands out as a risk factor.

“Persistent loss of the sense of smell may be a better indicator of long-term cognitive issues than the severity of your COVID,” explains Kristen Cusato of the Alzheimer’s Association of Connecticut who is one of the 9,000 people attending the conference.

Cusato explains that a loss of smell could be an inflammatory response in the brain and that inflammation is part of a neurological degenerative process.

“Could it be showing that that is going to lead to more of your memory concerns, some more of your memory, your forgetting, some more of your function, being able to function cognitively?” she asked.

Many more studies on COVID and possibly long-term memory loss are in the works.

Another new study revealed was on how eating lots of ultra-processed foods, like white bread, soda, cereals, and pizza can significantly speed up cognitive decline.

“They looked at 10,000 people, and of those 10,000 people if twenty percent of their diet is ultra-processed food they had a 30% increased risk of faster decline in cognitive function,” Cusato explained.

She said that fresh fruits and vegetables are the healthier choices on many levels, but points out they are not easily available to some, raising a disparity issue.

New studies are looking at the root causes of why Black and Hispanic rates of dementia are much higher than average. Black people have two times the risk for dementia and Hispanic individuals have a risk of one and a half times higher.

“Racism can cause trauma even at a young age, right and so that increases stress,” says Cusato.

She says that many future studies on these important topics are already in the works, and part of that on the racial issues involves getting more minority participants involved in more studies.

For questions on taking part or any caregiver or dementia issues, the 24/7 hotline for help is (800) 272-3900.