In one of the first studies of its kind, Curtin Alzheimer’s expert Professor John Mamo has explained why foods high in saturated fat can increase the likelihood of a person developing Alzheimer’s disease.
“Before now, there has been no dietary driven approach to the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease,” said Professor Mamo, National Director of the Australian Technology Network’s Centre for Metabolic Fitness at Curtin.
“Our study found that some dietary fats damaged the ‘blood-brain-barrier.’ The blood-brain-barrier is an important membrane that regulates what is normally allowed in and out of the brain, like important nutrients.”
Professor Mamo said Alzheimer’s disease was characterised by the presence of a protein in the brain called amyloid, which caused inflammation and cell death.
“Stopping amyloid deposits from forming is the key to slowing or preventing Alzheimer’s disease,” he said.
Professor Mamo’s Curtin research team found that saturated fats, like those found in poor quality processed meats, caused an increase in amyloid delivery from the blood to the brain, resulting in a “brain overload” of amyloid.
“There are several fundamentally important aspects of this study,” he said.
“For example, it has provided an explanation for population studies that have shown an association between Alzheimer’s disease and saturated fat intake.
“Our research identifies that diet can critically modulate what’s happening at the blood-brain-barrier. This leads us to think there could be further dietary and environmental factors which could cause irritation to the membrane.
“If the causes of damage and inflammation to the blood-brain-barrier are identified and stopped early, it may be possible to reverse this devastating disease.”
The research paper, Differential effects of dietary fatty acids on the cerebral distribution of plasma derived apo B lipoproteins with amyloid-b, will soon be published by the British Journal of Nutrition.
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