Poor diet and inactivity probably account for around one-quarter of cases of Alzheimer’s disease, recent research finds.
Now, a new study suggests that a ‘western diet’ may well be a contributing factor to Alzheimer’s.
The study’s authors describe the typical western diet:
“A western diet tends to include highly processed, less expensive fast food, that has a high fat content and simple carbohydrates while lacking essential nutrients from complex grains, fruits and vegetables.”
Scientists at Tufts University fed a typical western diet to lab mice.
The diet contained high amounts of:
- animal products,
- and fats.
The diet was also relatively low in:
- plant-based content,
- and essential nutrients.
The mice provide a model of Alzheimer’s disease which is thought to approximate human beings.
The researchers found that the mice showed a dramatic increase in immune response after eating the western diet for an extended period.
The western diet was linked to a large increase in the activity of microglia: cells which act as the brain’s immune system.
The study strongly supports the idea that a typical unhealthy western diet is a contributing factor to Alzheimer’s disease.
In combination with obesity, the effects of a western diet could be very large:
“Currently, more than 35% of Americans over the age of 65, and 40% of middle-aged (40–59 years old) individuals, are obese.
Some studies suggest obesity, particularly mid-life obesity, increases the chances of cognitive decline and AD by six-fold.
Increased immune response, such as inflammation, is one of the major consequences of a western diet and/or obesity.
The study was published in the journal Scientific Reports (Graham et al., 2016).
Alzheimer’s image from Shutterstock