Fast Food is Possible Risk Factor for Alzheimer’s

November 29, 2008

fast food Epidemiological studies provide evidence that high cholesterol levels and lack of antioxidants due to poor nutrition could increase risk of Alzheimer’s.
Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, and the underlying causes of Alzheimer’s are still unclear, but there are a number of known risk factors. The most common is a variant of a gene that controls the production of apolipoprotein E, a protein that transports cholesterol. The gene variant is called apoE4 and occurs in 15-20 per cent of the population.

Susanne Akterin from the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden conducted a study on mice that were fed for a nine-month period on a diet rich in fat, sugar and cholesterol, similar to the nutritional content found in the majority of fast food.

“On examining the brains of these mice, we found a chemical change not unlike that found in the Alzheimer’s patient brain,” says Ms Akterin.

The change consisted of an increase in phosphate groups attached to tau, the protein that forms the tangles found in nerve cells in Alzheimer’s patients. These tangles prevent the cells from functioning normally, which eventually leads to cell death. The researchers observed that cholesterol reduced levels of another brain substance, Arc (Activity-regulated, cytoskeletal-associated protein), which is important for memory.

“We now have reason to believe that a high intake of fat and cholesterol in combination with genetic factors such as apoE4 can be a contributing factor in the development of Alzheimer’s,” says Susanne Akterin.

In summary, the results give some additional indication of how to prevent Alzheimer’s.

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1. Akterin, Susanne, et al. From cholesterol to oxidative stress in Alzheimer’s disease : A wide perspective on a multifactorial disease . Karolinska Institutet. November 2008. 
2. Image by nexus_icon.

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