It’s been said that a Western diet – rich in animal products, fats and sugars – is bad for the heart.
And now, a new study revealed prolonged consumption could also have a negative impact on the brain.
Scientists discovered the diet – coupled with a lack of exercise – contributes to 25 per cent of Alzheimer’s disease cases.
Together, those were found to cause a ‘dramatic increase’ in immune response activity in the brain.
That leads to a greater amount of inflammation, which is believed to increase the risk of dementia.
This finding is troubling, experts said, as this ‘lifestyle’ is becoming ‘increasingly common’ in middle-aged people.
However, it offers new hope for Alzheimer’s treatments that target the subsequent inflammation, they noted.
The study was conducted by scientists from Tufts University and The Jackson Laboratory.
The team of scientists sought to take a closer look at the connection between diet and Alzheimer’s.
A Western diet combines high amounts of animal products, fat and sugars – with low plant-based content and nutrient density.
The scientists fed a ‘Western diet’ to healthy mice, as well as mice that were genetically modified to have some aspects of Alzheimer’s disease.
The mice consumed the food for eight months.
The scientists found that eating the Western diet for a long period of time led to an increase in the mice’s immune response activity in their brain.
That finding was apparent in both Alzheimer’s and healthy mice.
The diet increased the activity of microglia, which are the brain’s immune cells.
Additionally, the diet was also found to increase the activity of monocytes, which are circulating blood cells that may cross into the brain in response to immune signaling.
Previous research already linked the Western diet with the development of peripheral inflammation over time.
The current study adds evidence to the belief that immune activity in the brain increases dementia susceptibility.
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The study found that prolonged consumption of the diet cause increased immune activity in the brain, as well as heightened levels of a key immune regulatory protein, which increases the risk of dementia.
The mice in the study also had greater levels of microglia and monocytes that expressed a key immune regulatory protein called TREM2.
The protein is linked with susceptibility to Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative diseases related to age.
However, this was the first study to demonstrate an increase in TREM2+ cells in response to a Western diet.
The study also found that there was a strong correlation between the increased TREM2+ cell numbers and a greater beta-amyloid plaque burden in the brains of mice.
A hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease is the build up of beta-amyloid plaque in the brain.
Therefore, the study concluded that targeting TREM2 may be beneficial for patients suffering from diet-induced cognitive decline.
Written by Lisa Ryan and published at Daily Mail, March 7, 2016.
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