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

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8 comments

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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.

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