Research Finds Link Between Cognitive Decline And Neurodegeneration In Mice To Western Diet

Medical News Today

Former research has looked into the connection between a poor diet and Alzheimer’s disease and obesity. Meanwhile, new research looks at the role of a Western diet and how it creates cognitive and neurodegenerative issues in mice. What they’ve found is that there could be a mechanism that causes this, which is what scientists are hoping to study in order to develop possible therapies to treat neurodegenerative disorders, like Alzheimer’s.

In recent years, scientists have found a link between typical Western diet and their negative effects within the body, such as sepsis, chronic gut infections and prostate cancer.

In this new study, researchers find that a Western diet could have an adverse effect on the brain, which can lead to cognitive decline and other neurodegenerative issues. What the research team believes is that their findings could offer possible therapies for the treatment of such neurodegenerative issues like Alzheimer’s disease.

You can find the study in the iScience journal.


Western Diet and Neurodegenerative Disorders

Neurodegenerative disorders have a number of varied conditions associated with them which result in a loss of function and structure of the central or peripheral nervous system. The two most commonly known ones are Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, both of which are considered chronic.

The Alzheimer’s Association (AA) reports that over 6 million adults within the United States suffer from this disease, while the Parkinson’s Foundation shares that there are at least 1 million individual’s within the United States that have Parkinson’s.

Former research has shown that obesity and a poor diet are associated with one’s risk at developing the neurodegenerative condition, Alzheimer’s. Meanwhile, another study that was accomplished earlier in the year suggests that by preventing obesity in the earlier stages of one’s life via a healthy diet, which could also help delay or possibly even prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

According to health experts, a typical Western diet – which health experts normally refer to as the Standard American Diet – tends to have more food of high calorie and fat percentages that have a low nutritional value.

Researchers from the Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine (Edwards) in Huntington, WV completed a previous study that focused on a peptide called NaKtide ‘as a way to block signals from the cellular sodium-potassium pump called Na,K-ATPase.’ The study authors explain that by blocking the signals, they managed to lower the obesity growth in the mice that were fed with a high fat diet.

This present research shows that by eating a Western diet, it develops cognitive decline and neurodegeneration via increased Na,K-ATPase signaling in adipocytes, otherwise known as fat cells.

When the research group impaired the Na,K-ATPase signal via the use of NaKtide in the fat cells, they saw that it also stopped the negative effects that a Western diet has on one’s brain, notably the hippocampus, which is incredibly crucial to long-term memory and learning.


The Research Findings

For the study, the scientists used a gene-altered mouse model and fed the mice with either a Western type diet or a normal diet for 12 weeks. In addition, they gave the mice a doxycycline antibiotic to stimulate the NaKtide in the fat cells.

At the end of the study, the research group found that the mice that were given a Western diet happened to increase their body weight substantially more than the mice that were fed a normal diet. Moreover, the first group of mice had impressive insulin resistance, lowered oxygen levels, and low energy.

Furthermore, the Western diet happened to increase the kind of cytokine molecules that tend to promote inflammationwithin the body. While the body need both anti-inflammatory and pro-inflammatory cytokines to regulate each other’s response, having too many inflammatory cytokines are also linked to particular conditions, such as neurodegenerative diseases.

In the research, the study authors also discovered that the mice given a Western diet shows more signs of behavioral changes, as well as changes in gene expression and signaling, that are typically linked to individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.


What’s Next?

The study authors explain that the next step they will take is to do more studies and research to try and replicate the same present findings in humans. It also shows promise for future therapy to target turning off the Na,K-ATPase signaling in fat cells.

Senior study author and vice president and dean at Edwards, Dr. Joseph Shapiro, M.D. shares that while it’s still too early to discuss any new medications that could target the adipocyte redox state, “Dietary modulation to avoid exacerbation of oxidative stress in adipocytes might be worth examining in clinical neurodegeneration.”

Publication Medical News Today chose to speak with the director of Scientific Engagement for the AA, Dr. Percy Griffith, Ph.D., to ask about the possible implications this current research could have on suggested dietary changes for people living with Alzheimer’s disease or that with heightened risk factors.

Dr. Griffin shared, “This research offers a novel avenue to attenuate the effects of the Western diet by blocking Na,K-ATPase signaling in fat cells. Although this work is interesting, the connection to neurodegeneration is preliminary. An important next step for this research would be to provide more evidence of neuronal protection and explore a mechanism for this effect.”

He added, “Previous work has explored 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, there’s a lot of work showing that eating a diet high in vegetables, fruits, and healthy fats — that is, the Mediterranean diet — may decrease one’s risk [of] cognitive decline. The [AA] is currently conducting a clinical trial called U.S. POINTER that aims to evaluate whether lifestyle interventions — including eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, and staying cognitively engaged — can reduce risk of cognitive decline.”

According to Dr. Shapiro, when it comes to the potential implications this study has on the typical Western diet, he explained to MNT, “Rodents differ from humans in many, many ways, and it is quite possible that components of what we call a Western diet, such as high fat, may be less problematic in people than in rodents. However, we do think that simple sugars, especially fructose, may be problematic for people as well as rodents, based on extensive study by other researchers.”