Fast-food linked to Alzheimer's: Swedish scientists

November 28, 2008

Mice that were fed a diet rich in fat, sugar and cholesterol for nine months developed a preliminary stage of the morbid irregularities that form in the brains of Alzheimer's patients. The study results, published in a doctoral thesis from the Swedish medical university Karolinska Institutet (KI), give some indications of how this difficult to treat disease might one day be preventable.

Alzheimer's is the most common form of dementia, there being roughly 90,000 patients with the disease in Sweden today. The underlying causes of Alzheimer's disease are still something of a mystery, but there are a number of known risk factors. The most common is a variant of a certain gene that governs the production of apolipoprotein E, one of the functions of which is to transport cholesterol. The gene variant is called apoE4 and is found in 15-20 per cent of the population.

For her doctoral thesis, Susanne Akterin studied mice that had been genetically modified to mimic the effects of apoE4 in humans. The mice were then fed for nine months on a diet rich in fat, sugar and cholesterol, representing the nutritional content of most fast food.

"On examining the brains of these mice, we found a chemical change not unlike that found in the Alzheimer brain," says Ms Akterin, postgraduate at KI Alzheimer's Disease Research Center.

The change in question was an increase in phosphate groups attached to tau, a substance that forms the neurofibrillary tangles observed in Alzheimer's patients. These tangles prevent the cells from functioning normally, which eventually leads to their death. Ms Akterin and her team also noted indications that cholesterol in food reduced levels of another brain substance, Arc, a protein involved in memory storage.

"We now suspect that a high intake of fat and cholesterol in combination with genetic factors, such as apoE4, can adversely affect several brain substances, which can be a contributory factor in the development of Alzheimer's," says Susanne Akterin.

Previous research has shown that a phenomenon known as oxidative stress in the brain and a relatively low intake of dietary antioxidants can also increase the risk of Alzheimer's. Ms Akterin has now demonstrated in her thesis that two antioxidants are dysfunctional in the brains of Alzheimer patients, which can lead to nerve cell death.

"All in all, the results give some indication of how Alzheimer's can be prevented, but more research in this field needs to be done before proper advice can be passed on to the general public," she says.

Source: Karolinska Institutet

Explore further: Blood-thinning drugs appear to protect against dementia as well as stroke in AF patients

Related Stories

Blood-thinning drugs appear to protect against dementia as well as stroke in AF patients

October 25, 2017
Blood-thinning drugs not only reduce the risk of stroke in patients with atrial fibrillation (AF) but are also associated with a significant reduction in the risk of dementia, according to new research published today (Wednesday) ...

HPV vaccine safe for adult women: study

October 18, 2017
(HealthDay)—Vaccines that ward off the cancer-linked human papillomavirus (HPV) are safe for adult women, according to a study of more than 3 million Scandinavians.

Asthma increases risk of complications during pregnancy and delivery

October 4, 2017
Women with asthma suffer more often from preeclampsia (PE) and run a higher risk of giving birth to underweight babies. These and other complications during pregnancy and delivery can not be explained by hereditary or environmental ...

Blood test may help differentiate Parkinson's from similar diseases

February 8, 2017
A simple blood test may be as accurate as a spinal fluid test when trying to determine whether symptoms are caused by Parkinson's disease or another atypical parkinsonism disorder, according to a new study published in the ...

Gap in health care for Alzheimer´s disease patients who live alone

June 15, 2017
Swedish researchers report in an article published in the Journal of Alzheimer´s Disease that 46 percent of patients who are diagnosed with Alzheimer´s disease in Sweden live alone in their homes, in particular older women.

Lifestyle changes could prevent 400 cardiac events and 200 deaths in Swedish PCI patients

August 28, 2012
Up to 400 cardiac events and 200 deaths in Swedish PCI patients could be avoided by following a heart healthy lifestyle, according to research from the SPICI study presented at ESC Congress 2012. The results were presented ...

Recommended for you

New shoe makes running 4 percent easier, 2-hour marathon possible, study shows

November 17, 2017
Eleven days after Boulder-born Shalane Flanagan won the New York City Marathon in new state-of-the-art racing flats known as "4%s," University of Colorado Boulder researchers have published the study that inspired the shoes' ...

Vaping while pregnant could cause craniofacial birth defects, study shows

November 16, 2017
Using e-cigarettes during pregnancy could cause birth defects of the oral cavity and face, according to a recent Virginia Commonwealth University study.

Study: For older women, every movement matters

November 16, 2017
Folding your laundry or doing the dishes might not be the most enjoyable parts of your day. But simple activities like these may help prolong your life, according to the findings of a new study in older women led by the University ...

When vegetables are closer in price to chips, people eat healthier, study finds

November 16, 2017
When healthier food, like vegetables and dairy products, is pricier compared to unhealthy items, like salty snacks and sugary sweets, Americans are significantly less likely to have a high-quality diet, a new Drexel University ...

Children's exposure to secondhand smoke may be vastly underestimated by parents

November 15, 2017
Four out of 10 children in the US are exposed to secondhand smoke, according to the American Heart Association. A new Tel Aviv University study suggests that parents who smoke mistakenly rely on their own physical senses ...

How pomegranate extract alters breast cancer stem cell properties

November 15, 2017
A University at Albany research team has found evidence suggesting that the same antioxidant that gives pomegranate fruit their vibrant red color can alter the characteristics of breast cancer stem cells, showing the superfood's ...

8 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

GrayMouser
1.5 / 5 (4) Nov 28, 2008
Food Nazis strike again!
Velanarris
2 / 5 (2) Nov 28, 2008
Food Nazis strike again!


I wouldn't doubt that processed food is that bad for you, however, if it is that bad for you, the majority of what we eat would be linked to alzheimers
albert
1 / 5 (3) Nov 28, 2008
It makes sense. GMO and nanotechnology are entering processed foods. Carbs, especially, are responsible for obesity, and obesity breeds thousands of diseases, both physiological and neuro-chemical (brain). Best to buy good food and cook it yourself, if you can.
localcooling
not rated yet Nov 29, 2008
As always, one has to define what one makes a claim about. So, fast food, how is it defined??
murray
3 / 5 (1) Nov 29, 2008
I do not see how the study warrants conclusions about fast food ingredients. Is it the carbohydrates (hamburger bun and fires), the rancidity of heat-processed unsaturated fats, the sugar, the pattern of eating while stressed, the added preservatives and flavour enhancers, etc.
Soylent
3 / 5 (2) Nov 29, 2008
GMO and nanotechnology are entering processed foods.[...]


Your body can't tell one DNA fragment from another, it all just looks like food.

Nanotech? What are you talking about.

[...]Carbs, especially, are responsible for obesity, and obesity breeds thousands of diseases, both physiological and neuro-chemical (brain).


That's patently unreasonable. Most of the world eats almost exclusively carbohydrates(rice, potatoes, grains, corn, sorghum...) and that has been the case ever since farming was invented. They're fine, stop stuffing your face once in a while and you'll be fine too.
Velanarris
not rated yet Nov 29, 2008
That's patently unreasonable. Most of the world eats almost exclusively carbohydrates(rice, potatoes, grains, corn, sorghum...) and that has been the case ever since farming was invented. They're fine, stop stuffing your face once in a while and you'll be fine too.

Soylent, I think he bought too heaviliy into the Atkins diet.
superhuman
not rated yet Dec 01, 2008
GMO and nanotechnology are entering processed foods.[...]


Your body can't tell one DNA fragment from another, it all just looks like food.


I assume you mean DNA in food, cause its patently obvious your body can tell the difference, thats the whole point of DNA.

The DNA taken up as food is degraded before being absorbed unless it is specifically protected (like in case of viruses for example).

However there are plenty of other compounds in food and some of them are not fully degraded and can do harm to humans, thats why food can be toxic. There is a *slight* chance that a GMO will produce compounds which have detrimental effects when eaten and which are not present (or not in the same quantity) in the native organism.

So GMOs are not perfectly safe or as safe as not modified food, they pose additional risk however this risk is very small *if* they are properly tested.

So if you have a choice its better to eat normal food, unless there is some clear benefit to GMO, economical or otherwise, which justifies the added risk.

This is not to say I support that conspiracy theory, that is nonsense.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.