The combination of aging and eating foods high in fat and sugar has been linked to Alzheimer's disease in a study.
Alzheimer's disease, the most common form of dementia, is the sixth most common cause of death in the United States. About 5.7 million Americans are living with this disease, and by 2020 it is projected to rise to nearly 14 million.
But the cause of the disease remains unknown. The likelihood that it develops increases with age, and evidence suggests that dietary obesity may also be a risk factor, the authors of the new study noted in the journal Physiological Reports ,
To explore these theories, researchers at Brock University in Ontario, Canada, fed a group of mice on a high-fat and high-sugar diet while a control group continued their normal diet. [1
After 13 weeks, the scientists measured the levels of inflammation and stress in the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex of the mice: the hippocampus is associated with memory formation and spatial awareness, while the prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain responsible for complex cognitive behavior sen areas could therefore contribute to the development of Alzheimer's disease.
The researchers found that the mice fed the high-fat, high-sugar diet had significantly higher levels of insulin resistance, inflammation, and cellular stress in the parts of the hippocampus that played a role in Alzheimer's disease. Meanwhile, the prefrontal cortex showed signs of insulin resistance but no change in cellular stress or inflammation. Aging also appears to be a factor as the control group's inflammatory levels in the control group also increased compared to baseline levels
The authors therefore believe that combining a high-fat, high-sugar diet with the effects of aging worsened on the brain in terms of Alzheimer's disease.
"These findings contribute to our fundamental understanding of the early-stage signaling pathways involved in the [Alzheimer’s] pathogenesis and demonstrate the adverse effects of an HFS diet on the prefrontal cortex and hippocampal regions," the authors said in a statement.
Since the study was conducted on mice, further studies are needed to understand if the results are reproduced in humans. But mouse models give a useful insight into mechanisms in the body.
This is the latest study suggesting that our diet may play a role in the development of Alzheimer's. In early June, a mouse study conducted by researchers at the University of Illinois Chicago found that heavy drinking might affect how the brain clears plaque clumps associated with Alzheimer's disease.
The microglial cells proposed in Journal of Neuroinflammation found in the central nervous system, were hampered in their ability to eliminate amyloid beta by alcohol levels, comparable to a strong drinking session.