Researchers Link Dietary Fats to Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive neurodegenerative illness that causes a gradual decline in an individual’s memory, behavior and thinking. Researchers believe that the illness can be caused by multiple factors, the most common one being dementia. Now, new research conducted by the Universitat Rovira i Virgili has linked saturated fats to the disease.

The research was led by Professor Mònica Bulló of the institution’s department of biotechnology and biochemistry, in association with the University of Barcelona, CIBERobn, and the Pere Virgili Health Research Institute.

For their research, the scientists used mice models that had developed Alzheimer’s in adulthood. They centered their study on how diets high in saturated fats impacted specific molecules in the blood as well as other tissues in the body that act as regulators and markers of Alzheimer’s.

Prior research has demonstrated that diets high in saturated fats lead to earlier development of the neurodegenerative disease, in comparison to mice on a standard diet. However, the mechanism that led to Alzheimer’s onset was unknown, until now.

To begin with, the scientists examined the expression of different miRNAs, which play a significant role in genetic regulation in both brain tissue and plasma. They analyzed changes in miRNAs linked to insulin in mice models that were on diets high in saturated fats, leading to the discovery that the mice’s metabolism worsened after they were on this diet for half a year. Additionally, the mice’s response to insulin and glucose dropped while their body weights increased significantly.

In their report, the scientists noted that these characteristics could be observed in individuals with type 2 diabetes or obesity. Furthermore, they observed changes to different miRNAs in both the brain and the blood, which were associated with processes that can result in brain damage. This included inflammation in the brain, excessive tau protein production and β-amyloid plaque accumulation.

Bulló noted in the report that their results could explain the link between type 2 diabetes, obesity and Alzheimer’s onset, adding that they also provided new targets for potential treatment and prevention of Alzheimer’s disease. The study’s findings also call attention to the use of miRNAs as targets for therapeutic interventions while also emphasizing the importance of consuming a balanced diet in the prevention of neurodegenerative illnesses.

Study results were published in the “Nutrients journal.” Other researchers include Melina Rojas-Criollo, Antoni Camins, Nil Novau-Ferré, Marina Carrasco, Laia Gutierrez-Tordera, Javier Mateu-Fabregat, Miren Ettcheto, Hamza Mostafa, Jaume Folch, Laura Panisello, Christopher Papandreou and Amanda Cano.

The growing body of scientific data documenting how Alzheimer’s develops and progresses could help entities come up with more effective treatments against this disease over the coming years.

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