Researchers are investigating the role of the Western diet in cognitive decline and neurodegenerative problems in mice. Previous research has shown an association between poor diet, obesity and Alzheimer’s disease. New research on rodents may reveal a mechanism behind this phenomenon that researchers could use to develop potential therapies to treat neurodegenerative disorders.
In recent years, studies of the typical Western diet have linked it to adverse reactions in the body, including prostate cancer, sepsis, and chronic intestinal infections. A new study suggests that the Western diet may have a negative effect on the brain, leading to decreased cognitive function and neurodegenerative problems. The researchers believe that their findings could offer potential therapies for the treatment of neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease.
The study is published in the journal iScience
Neurodegenerative disorders and western diet
Neurodegenerative disorders include various conditions resulting from loss of structure and function of the central or peripheral nervous system. The two most common neurodegenerative disorders are Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. Previous research shows that the effects of obesity and poor diet may increase the risk of developing a neurodegenerative disease such as Alzheimer’s disease. Another study from the beginning of the year showed that preventing obesity at an early age through a healthier diet can delay or prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
The typical Western diet, which health professionals also refer to as the standard Western diet, usually includes large amounts of foods with higher calorie and fat percentages and lower nutritional value. In a previous study, researchers identified a peptide called NaKtide as a way to block signals from a cellular sodium-potassium pump called Na, K-ATPase. By blocking this signal, the study authors reduced the growth of obesity in mice fed a high-fat diet.
Current research suggests that the Western diet causes cognitive decline and neurodegeneration through increased Na, K-ATPase signaling in adipocytes or fat cells. When researchers interfered with the Na, K-ATPase signal using NaKtide in these fat cells, they found that it stopped the negative effects of the Western diet on the brain, especially on the hippocampus, which plays a vital role in learning and long-term memory.
In the study, the researchers used a mouse model that had the gene altered. For 12 weeks, the mice were fed either a normal diet or a western-style diet. They were also given the antibiotic doxycycline to activate NaKtide in fat cells. At the end of the study, the researchers observed that mice fed a Western diet significantly increased their body weight compared to mice fed a normal diet. In addition, the first group of mice showed noticeable insulin resistance, low energy, and reduced oxygen levels.
The Western diet also increases the type of cytokine molecules that promote inflammation. The body needs anti-inflammatory and pro-inflammatory cytokines to regulate its response. Too many inflammatory cytokines can cause certain conditions, including neurodegenerative diseases. The study authors also found that mice fed a Western diet showed signs of behavioral changes and changes in gene expression and signaling that were consistent with those typical of people with Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
For the authors of the study, the next step is to conduct further research in order to try to replicate current knowledge in humans. Research also points to the possibility of therapies aimed at inactivating Na, K-ATPase signaling in fat cells.
Although it is too early to talk about new drugs that could target the redox state of adipocytes, dietary modulation to prevent exacerbation of oxidative stress in adipocytes could be considered in the context of clinical neurodegeneration.
In addition, this research could have important implications for proposed dietary changes for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or with increased risk factors. Indeed, this research offers a new way to mitigate the effects of the Western diet by blocking Na, K-ATPase signaling in fat cells. Previous work has examined the effect of a high-fat diet on inflammation in the brain and an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. On the other hand, numerous studies show that a diet rich in vegetables, fruits and healthy fats, a Mediterranean diet, can reduce the risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease.
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