Gut bacteria may play a role in Alzheimer’s disease

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Alzheimer’s disease is one of the most debilitating disorders of the 21st century.  Originally discovered in 1906 by Dr. Alois Alzheimer, hence the name, the symptoms of the disease includes memory loss, paranoia, and psychological changes.  Auguste D, a patient with severe symptoms, was diagnosed by Dr. Alzheimer.  Upon her death, there was an autopsy performed.  During the autopsy, it was discovered that her brain had shrunk considerably and there were abnormally folded protein deposits, later named plaque, in and around her brain cells.

The cause of Alzheimer’s disease is unknown.  However, it is theorized that plaques and tangles (explained shortly) were the primary suspects in cell death and brain shrinkage in patients with the disease.  Plaques are abnormal deposits of a type of sticky beta-amyloid protein that build up between nerve cells.  These small clumps may block cell-to-cell signaling at nerve synapses.  They may also trigger an immune response which initiates inflammation and the consuming of disabled brain cells.

Tangles form inside of dying cells.  They are made up of twisted fibers of a protein called, Tau.  In healthy brains, Tau keeps the nutrient transport system on track.  However, in areas where tangles are formed, the twisted strands disintegrate the transport system; therefore, any essential nutrients are lost and brain cells starve to death and die.

Most people develop plaque and tangles as they age; however, those afflicted with Alzheimer’s develop much more.  These plaques and tangles develop in predictable patterns, starting in areas which are important in learning and memory and moving to other areas as the disease progresses.

Research coming from Sweden suggests our gut microbiota (bacteria) can accelerate the development of Alzheimer’s disease.  By studying the gut bacteria of diseased and healthy mice, it was discovered that healthy mice had different forms of gut bacteria compared to the diseased mice.  After transplanting the intestinal bacteria into the healthy mice, they saw a dramatic increase of the beta-amyloid plaques in the brain.

This is a possible breakthrough in treatment for the disease.  Prior, patients would only receive symptom-relieving antiretroviral drugs.  Now, researchers will look into entirely new types of preventative and therapeutic strategies based on the modulation of “healthy” types of gut bacteria.  Diet and new types of probiotics will be at the forefront of the research.

Increasingly, we are seeing the correlation between a healthy diet and a healthy mind.  This idea has been underscored in numerous medical journals, but it shows how important it is.  In my previous blog post, I mentioned the catchphrase “everything in moderation” and that still holds true.  Nevertheless, it is an important adage.  I still love a good steak and an occasional hamburger, but personally, I like to adhere to a 2-1-1 vegetable, protein, complex carbohydrate strategy for most meals.  Twice as many vegetables to my protein content (mostly fish) and complex carbohydrates (mostly brown rice, occasionally quinoa).  This ensures I am getting the most from my meals.  I limit my sugar intake and I drink plenty of water.  I exercise 3-4 times a week and read as much as I can.  Sleep on the other hand is a work in progress.

Hopefully, a similar strategy will work for you.  If you have a healthy strategy that works for you, leave me a comment.

Disclaimer:  “Any opinions stated in this article belong solely to the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of CSUN faculty/ staff. Information contained herein has not been verified by CSUN faculty/staff.

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