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Mechanism linking fatty diet to Alzheimer’s disease discovered



A new study led by the Universitat Rovira i Virgili (URV) has revealed the mechanism behind the link between a diet high in saturated fats and Alzheimer’s disease, taking the understanding of the relationship between obesity, type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease a step forward.

The research focused on how a fatty diet affects certain molecules found in the blood and in other tissues, such as the brain, that act as markers and regulators of the disease.

Conducted on models of mice which developed Alzheimer’s disease in adulthood, for the study, the researchers analysed the expression of 15 miRNAs, small molecules of RNA that play a crucial role in genetic regulation in both plasma and brain tissues.

The team examined changes in insulin-related miRNAs in mouse models predisposed to Alzheimer’s not on a diet low in saturated fats.

Previous studies in these animals had already shown that after a diet high in saturated fats the mice developed Alzheimer’s much earlier than mice on a conventional diet. However, the mechanisms that led to the onset of Alzheimer’s remained unknown.

Results from this new study revealed that the metabolism of the mice worsened after being on a diet high in saturated fats for six months: their body weight increased significantly and their response to glucose and insulin decreased.

These same characteristics can also be found in people with obesity or type 2 diabetes.

Additionally, researchers found changes to various miRNAs in both the blood and the brain. These changes were related to processes that can cause brain damage, such as the accumulation of β-amyloid plaques, excessive production of the tau protein and inflammation in the brain.

“The results of this study are a step forward in our understanding of this disease and may explain the relationship between obesity, type 2 diabetes and the onset of Alzheimer’s. The findings also offer new targets for the possible prevention and treatment of the disease,” said researcher Mònica Bulló.

The study not only provides new data on how a high-fat diet can affect the health of the brain, but also opens the door to future research into dietary strategies as a means of treating Alzheimer’s.

The authors emphasise that the results underline the importance of a balanced diet in preventing neurodegenerative diseases and highlight miRNAs as targets for therapeutic interventions.

The study was headed by Mònica Bulló, professor at the Department of Biochemistry and Biotechnology and member of the Metabolic Health and Nutrition unit and the Environmental, Food and Toxicological Technology Centre (TecnATox) of the URV, in collaboration with the Pere Virgili Health Research Institute (IISPV), CIBERobn and the University of Barcelona. The results have been published in the journal Nutrients.