Dementia: The popular diet shown to induce ‘significant deterioration of cognition’

Dementia: The popular diet shown to induce ‘significant deterioration of cognition’

Steve Thompson recalls signs of his early-onset dementia

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A dementia diagnosis marks the beginning of an arduous journey in a person’s life, but there are several ways the condition can be averted. Certain diets are associated with a reduced risk of the disease, while others have been shown to cause significant brain decline. According to a new study, one dietary pattern may significantly hamper brain function.

A new study led by neuroscientists Professor Xin-Fu Zhou and Associate Professor Larisa Bobrovskaya has established a clear link between mice fed a high-fat diet for 30 weeks resulting in diabetes.

The findings, published in the journal Metabolic Brain Disease, also revealed evidence of subsequent deterioration in cognitive abilities, including developing anxiety, depression and worsening Alzheimer’s disease.

UniSA neuroscientist and biochemist Association Professor Larisa Bobrovskaya, said: “Obesity and diabetes impair the central nervous system, exacerbating psychiatric disorders and cognitive decline.

“We demonstrated this in our study with mice.”

The rodents used in the study were randomly allocated to a standard diet or a high-fat diet for 30 weeks, starting at eight weeks of age.

Food intake, body weight and glucose levels were checked at various intervals, along with glucose and insulin tolerance tests and cognitive dysfunction.

According to Medical Express: “Genetically modified Alzheimer’s disease mice showed a significant deterioration of cognition and pathological changes in the brain while fed the high-fat diet.”

Professor Bobrovskaya added: “Obese individuals have about a 55 percent increased risk of developing depression and diabetes will double that risk.

“Our findings underline the importance of addressing the global obesity epidemic. A combination of obesity, age and diabetes are very likely to lead to a decline in cognitive abilities, Alzheimer’s disease and other mental health disorders.”

There are several types of dietary fat, but the culprit implicated in dementia risk is the saturated kind.

The negative effects of a saturated fat diet have been studied on both humans and rodents in previous work.

Earlier this year, a study of more than 1,200 people showed that people with higher levels of saturated fats in their blood were more likely to develop dementia.

There are several potential mechanisms underpinning this relationship.

Previous research has suggested mechanisms potentially linking high fat diets to the cognitive deficit is insulin resistance.

Saturated fats, alongside other trans-fatty acids, can also contribute to a breakdown of plasticity in the brain when consumed.

Doctor Ilona Dekkers, from the Leiden University Medical Centre in the Netherlands, said in 2019: “Having higher levels of fat distributed over the body is associated with smaller volumes of the important structure of the brain, including grey matter structures that are located in the centre of the brain.”

It should be noted, however, that some fats confer protection against brain decline.

Fatty fish, which is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, has been found to play a role in sharpening memory and improving mood.

Harvard Health has highlighted several studies supporting the benefits of fish for brain health.

Commenting on one of the studies, the health body said: “Fish was the single most important dietary factor in lowering cognitive impairment.”

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