We all know that poor diet leads to poor health but scientists have now studied the impact on mice who carry ApoE4, the Alzheimer’s gene, to those with the non-risk gene ApoE3. These are variants of a gene that codes for a protein which binds fats and cholesterol to transport them to certain systems in the body, including the brain. Carriers of ApoE4 are ten times more likely to get the disease than non-carriers but many people with the gene never get the disease. Scientists at University of Southern California wanted to explore whether lifestyle factors, like diet, could play a key role in its development.
The answer is yes. For 12 weeks a genetically predisposed group of mice and a non-risk group were fed both high fat and high sugar diets and a control group for each was given lower, healthier diets. The study found that ApoE4 carriers on the unhealthy diet quickly developed beta amyloid plaques in the brain, a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease but those without the gene showed no increase. Scientists still need to unravel exactly how poor diet affects the build up of the proteins in apoE4 carriers but this adds to research that shows that conditions like obesity, potentially, have a damaging effect on cognitive function.