Genetic risk and poor diet could lead to memory loss

You are what you eat, and what you put in your mouth can affect your brain.

The same foods that are making Americans obese may also cause them to develop Alzheimer’s disease, according to a new study published in the journal eNeuro, the latest to explore the relationship between weight and memory loss. 

Researchers at the University of Southern California Davis School of Gerontology studied the effects of a poor diet on mice. They found that a diet high in cholesterol, fat and sugar may increase likelihood of Alzheimer’s onset for those with a genetic risk.

“What happens to you in life is a combination of the genes that you have, the environment and behaviors, such as diet,” said Christian Pike, the lead author of the study and a USC Davis professor, in a press release. “Our thinking is that the risk of Alzheimer’s associated with obesity is going to be regulated to some degree by the genes that we have.”

Pike and his colleagues studied people with the ApoE4 and ApoE3, two gene variants for the protein apolipoprotein E. The protein binds fats and cholesterol and transports to the brain, among other systems. Previous research has linked the ApoE4 variant to increased inflammation, Alzheimer’s and cardiovascular disease.

Researchers put the mice on a diet for 12 weeks. Mice with ApoE4 were placed on a control diet that was 10 percent fat and 7 percent sucrose while another group of mice ate a Western diet that was 45 percent fat and 17 percent sucrose. A similar test was run on mice with ApoE3.

Mice with the variants that ate unhealthy diets gained weight and became pre-diabetic. Those with the ApoE4 variant on the Western diet developed the signature Alzheimer’s plaques. Mice with the ApoE3 did not see dementia symptoms worsen. 

Topics: Alzheimer's/Dementia