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).
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
Alzheimer’s image from Shutterstock