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Link Found Between Fast Food And Alzheimer’s

November 30, 2008

A Swedish researcher said on Friday that mice who were fed junk food for nine months showed signs of developing the abnormal brain tangles strongly associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

A series of published papers by a researcher at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute showed how a diet rich in fat, sugar and cholesterol could increase the risk of the most common type of dementia.

“On examining the brains of these mice, we found a chemical change not unlike that found in the Alzheimer brain,” Susanne Akterin, a researcher at the Karolinska Institute’s Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, who led the study, said in a statement.

“We now suspect that a high intake of fat and cholesterol in combination with genetic factors … can adversely affect several brain substances, which can be a contributory factor in the development of Alzheimer’s.”

Alzheimer’s is an incurable disease and the most common form of dementia among older people.  It affects the regions of the brain involving thought, memory and language.

Researchers are now looking at therapies to address the toxic tangles caused by an abnormal build-up of the protein tau.

Akterin focused on a gene variant called apoE4 in her research, and found it in 15 to 20 percent of people.  This gene variant is a known risk factor for Alzheimer’s and is involved in the transport of cholesterol.

Mice were genetically engineered to mimic the effect of the variant gene in humans, and were fed a diet rich in fat, sugar and cholesterol for nine months. 

Akterin said, the mice showed chemical changes in their brains, which indicates an abnormal build-up of the protein tau as well as signs that cholesterol in food reduces levels of another protein called Arc involved in memory storage.

“All in all, the results give some indication of how Alzheimer’s can be prevented, but more research in this field needs to be done before proper advice can be passed on to the general public,” she said.

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