Monday, June 17, 2013

High-Fat Diet May Increase Alzheimer's Risk

Diets high in saturated fat and sugar may increase the risk of Alzheimer's disease, and a new study may explain why.

In the study, participants who ate a diet high in saturated fat (including lots of beef and bacon) and "high glycemic index" foods (such as white rice and white bread) had an increase in levels of a protein called amyloid-beta in their cerebral spinal fluid. Amyloid-beta is a key component of the brain plaques that are a hallmark of Alzheimer's. High glycemic index foods release sugar quickly into the bloodstream.

In contrast, participants who ate a diet low in saturated fat (including fish and chicken) and low in high glycemic index foods (such as whole grains) had a decrease in amyloid-beta in their cerebral spinal fluid. 

While previous studies have found that poor diet, obesity and diabetes are linked with an increased risk of Alzheimer's disease, the new study is one of the first to try to explain why, on a biological level, this might occur.

"Diet is a very important factor in determining brain health," said study researcher Suzanne Craft, a professor of medicine at Wake Forest  School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C. "The types of food we eat, particular dietary patterns that happen over long periods of time, are likely to have a substantial impact on our brains to the point where they may either protect or increase your risk of developing late-life brain disease like Alzheimer's disease," Craft said.

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