Monday, December 1, 2008

Fast Food Connection to Alzheimers?

Sweden's prestigious medical university, the Karolinska Institute, just published an interesting study that may link fast food and junk food to Alzheimers. It seems that mice fed a diet rich in fat, sugar and cholesterol for nine months developed a preliminary stage of the irregularities that form in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. Karolinska researchers believe that this shows how this difficult-to-treat disease might one day be preventable.

Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia. The underlying causes of Alzheimer’s disease are still something of a mystery, but there are a number of known risk factors. The most common is a variant of a certain gene (apoE4) that is found in 15-20 per cent of the population.

Susanne Akterin of the Karolinska studied mice that had been genetically modified to mimic the effects of apoE4 in humans. The mice were then fed for nine months on a diet rich in fat, sugar and cholesterol, representing the nutritional content of fast food (the diet we promote around the world from the USA).

“On examining the brains of these mice, we found a chemical change not unlike that found in the Alzheimer brain,” said Akterin, postgraduate at KI Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center.

A substance was seen that forms the neurofibrillary tangles observed in Alzheimer’s patients, which prevents the cells them from functioning normally and eventually leads to their death. Akterin and her team also noted indications that cholesterol in the junk food reduced levels of another brain substance, Arc, a protein involved in memory storage.

“We now suspect that a high intake of fat and cholesterol in combination with genetic factors, such as apoE4, can adversely affect several brain substances, which can be a contributory factor in the development of Alzheimer’s,” says the Karolinska press release.


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