Healthy Fat Metabolism Could Protect Against Alzheimer's

Written by Walter Printz on June 30, 2020 — fact checked by Andrea Anita

A new study sheds light on the relationship between the polyunsaturated fatty acids found in adipose tissue and Alzheimer's disease. Published in the journal PLOS ONE, the study also suggests that this link may be enhanced by an emerging drug treatment for Alzheimer's called galantamine, which restores healthy fat metabolism.

Senior study author Dr. Dorothy Kramer, chief of the Division of Biological Nutrition at the National Institute on Aging, and colleagues suggest that galantamine, when used as a treatment for Alzheimer's, could stimulate polyunsaturated fatty acid levels in adipose tissue - a potential treatment for the neurodegenerative disease. Dr. Dorothy Kramer, chief of the Division of Biological Nutrition at the National Institute on Aging, and colleagues suggest that galantamine, when used as a treatment for Alzheimer's, could stimulate polyunsaturated fatty acid levels in adipose tissue - a potential treatment for the neurodegenerative disease.

In their paper, the team explains that "given the mounting evidence that endocrine, endocrine-like compounds, in particular, fatty acids, play important roles in aging and chronic diseases, epidemiological studies in obesity and aging show a link between Alzheimer's disease and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs).

Working with postmenopausal women over 40 years old, the researchers noticed a "significant association" between the levels of two key fatty acids, linoleic acid and lauric acid, and decline in cognitive function and increased risk of Alzheimer's disease.

The researchers also observed a link between the amount of PUFAs found in blood plasma and the risk of Alzheimer's.

Among the other factors they took into account were total cholesterol, triglycerides, levels of free fatty acids, blood glucose and levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), another common cholesterol marker.

The researchers confirmed that lauric acid and linoleic acid levels were affected by age and the risk of Alzheimer's disease.

The team found that more PUFAs were found in serum of women who had higher than average baseline levels in the two fatty acids in plasma.

In contrast, the experts noted no association between blood cholesterol, total and triglycerides and blood glucose, and neither were there any links between blood HDL levels and blood PUFAs.

The researchers conclude that more research is needed to determine if the link between PUFAs and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease and stroke is causal. They note, however, that the genetic changes seen in the study "provide some support for this relationship."

The researchers explain that they may have found a less posi- tive link between PUFAs and Alzheimer's in part because the level of PUFAs in the blood plasma of men who tested positive for the BRCA gene "was not associated with neurodegenerative disease."

Since the scientists do not yet have the answers, they recommend a wider study to continue investigating the relationships.

The researchers also recommend more studies to investigate the mechanism by which PUFAs affect the brain.

Overall, their findings highlight the importance of PUFAs and fatty acids in the aging process, and they conclude that the so-called "buffering effect" of PUFAs on the rate of memory decline in older women is an important piece of information for scientists to work on.

Meanwhile, Medical News Today recently learned how another study suggests that some women's brains benefit from a strategy to protect themselves from Alzheimer's disease.

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Written by Walter Printz on June 30, 2020 — fact checked by Andrea Anita

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