If you’re concerned about getting Alzheimer’s, this is important. There are several studies that show a direct association between a combination of eating a Western diet and being sedentary with an increased chance of getting Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, some researchers have estimated that a combination of diet and inactivity contributes to as many as 25% of Alzheimer’s cases. But is it really true?
Researchers who wanted to know the answer just published a new study published this last month. They looked at whether or not a Western diet increased the chance of a group of mice for getting Alzheimer’s.
To do the experiment the researchers hired two different groups of mice. They bred one group to get Alzheimer’s. The other group consisted of normal mice. Then they formulated a first ever mouse diet that would mimic the fat, carbohydrate, protein, vitamin, and mineral levels of Western diets. They fed this diet to half of the mice. They gave the other half normal mouse chow. The experiment went on for nine months. The results show just how important having a healthy diet is when it comes to preventing Alzheimer’s.
First of all, the researchers examined the microglial cells of the animals’ brains. They focused specifically on those areas of the brain that are most affected by Alzheimer’s disease. Microglial cells are special cells in the brain that can activate something called TREM2. TREM2 is a key immune regulatory protein that research has strongly linked to Alzheimer’s disease and other age-related neurodegenerative diseases.
The researchers found that microglial activation of TREM2 was “dramatically increased in response to diet” in all the mice on the Western diet. The lucky critters on the regular chow had no such problem. They also found a direct connection to Alzheimer’s because they discovered that the increased activation was even greater in the mice bred to get Alzheimer’s.
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This is the first study to show an increase in TREM2 cell activation as a result of eating the diet most Americans eat. And that’s not all.
The researchers then looked at the brains of the mice for any evidence of beta-amyloid plaque. Beta-amyloid plaque is a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease. And according to the authors, “There was a strong correlation between increased TREM2+ cell numbers and increased beta-amyloid plaque burden in the brains of the mice, indicating that targeting TREM2 may be beneficial for patients with diet-induced cognitive decline.” But let me put the last part of this sentence another way. When they say, “targeting TREM2+ may be beneficial” what they are referring to is getting off the Western diet.
So what’s a Western diet anyway? And how do you know if you’re on one? Here’s a hint. It’s not a diet high in barbecued ribs and beans served on metal plates out on the lone prairie. A Western diet is a diet that is high in sugars, carbohydrates, and fat. It’s low in fiber, low in nutrients, and high in calories.
Currently, more than 35% of Americans over the age of 65 are obese. And although there are other causes of obesity, the most significant cause is the Western diet. By the way, not only did the animals on the Western diet all show early signs consistent with Alzheimer’s, they all became obese as well. So do yourself a favor. If you need some help in the diet department find a nutritionist to teach you how to change over to a healthier way to eat.
And while you’re at it, start a regular exercise program of 60 minutes, three times per week. My book Bursting With Energy can tell you just how to go about both. And just to be sure, take one scoop of my Super Immune QuickStart every morning. It’s loaded with all the fiber, minerals, and vitamins that can be lacking in even the best of diets.
Yours for better health,
Frank Shallenberger, MD
Leah C. Graham, Jeffrey M. Harder, et al. Chronic consumption of a western diet induces robust glial activation in aging mice and in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease. Scientific Reports, 2016; 6: 21568