30th June 2017 | Community Blog, Diabetics

DEMENTIA symptoms and Alzheimer’s disease can be caused by a range of genetic or environmental factors – which can include diet, drinking too much and obesity. Now experts have revealed how diet and genetics together can increase risk.

What is Alzheimer’s Disease?

There is no cure for dementia or Alzheimer’s disease the most common form of dementia, but now experts have revealed how diet could have a major impact on brain health.New research has revealed a diet high in fat, cholesterol and sugar could be linked to Alzheimer’s disease – but in people who are carried of a specific gene.While experts know there are genetic and environmental factors which influence the development of the condition, researchers have now looked at how both can affect the risk of developing the disease.Obesity is one of the main factors linked to the condition.But now a study has shown people who carry a particular gene – called apolipoprotein E – or APOE4 and are obese could be at greater risk of the condition.

Dementia and diet link: Experts have found a link between genes and a diet high in fat

ApoE4 and ApoE3 are two variants of a gene that codes for a protein, apolipoprotein E, which binds fats and cholesterol to transport them to the body’s lymphatic and circulatory systems and to the brain. The ApoE4 variant is linked to increased inflammation, Alzheimer’s and cardiovascular disease. ApoE3, which does not increase risk for the disease, is much more common, appearing in an estimated 70 to 75 percent of the population but ApoE4 appears in around 10 to 15 percent of the population.Researchers at the USC Davis School of Gerontology compared the effects of a poor diet on groups of mice that either had the Alzheimer’s-associated ApoE4 gene or the relatively benign variant of the gene, ApoE3.After eating an unhealthy diet, the mice with the ApoE4 gene showed more Alzheimer’s plaques – a marker for inflammation – in their brains, but those with ApoE3 did not.“Part of what the results are saying is that risk doesn’t affect everybody the same, and that’s true for most risk factors,” said Professor Christian Pike, from USC Davis School of Gerontology and lead author on the study.

“Your genes have a big role in what happens to you, but so does your environment and your modifiable lifestyle factors. How much you exercise becomes important and what you eat becomes important.”

For 12 weeks, a group of mice with ApoE4 were placed on a control diet that was ten percent fat and seven percent sucrose, while another group of mice with ApoE4 ate a Western diet that was of 45 percent fat and 17 percent sucrose.

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A similar test was run on mice with ApoE3.On the unhealthy diet, both the mice with ApoE4 and those with ApoE3 gained weight and became pre-diabetic.But most significantly, those with ApoE4 on the unhealthy diet quickly developed the signature plaques that affect cognition and memory.However, Alzheimer’s symptoms did not worsen for the ApoE3 mice that ate a Western diet.Professor Pike said: “What happens to you in life is a combination of the genes that you have, the environment and behaviours, such as diet. 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.
“That means there are probably components directly in the diet, and one of those are fatty acids, like palmitic acid, that trigger inflammation because they can go in and directly affect glia,” Pike said. “But that may be just one inflammation-related component of Alzheimer’s disease.”

“There’s probably a variety of different signals that affect the brain,” he added. “People even suggest that signals coming from the gut – the microbiome – are influential.”Research has revealed Alzheimer’s affects more women than men.Having one copy of ApoE4 quadruples women’s risk for developing the disease. But having two copies of ApoE4 is an issue for men and women, raising their risk for the disease by a factor of 10.However some people with ApoE3 and ApoE4 never develop Alzheimer’s