Western diet linked to cognitive decline, neurodegeneration: study in mice

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Researchers announced earlier this month that they had found a link between a Western diet and cognitive decline and neurodegeneration in a study using mice.

Published in the journal Cell Press iScience, the Marshall University authors said that diet creates these impacts on the brain through increased Na, K-ATPase signaling in fat cells.

Na, K-ATPase is a sodium-potassium cellular pump and adipocytes are fat cells and are the main energy storage sites in the body.

To reach these conclusions, the group used a gene-modified mouse model, feeding the mice either a normal diet or a Western diet for 12 weeks.

The mice were also given the antibiotic doxycycline to activate the NaKtide peptide in fat cells.

Mice following the Western diet increased their body weight and showed insulin resistance, lower oxygen levels, and low energy consumption.

In addition, mice fed the Western diet showed signs of behavioral changes consistent with those typical of humans with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

“In this study, we found that a Western diet produced systemic oxidative stress as well as evidence of activation of Na, K-ATPase signaling in murine brain and peripheral tissues,” the authors wrote. “We also noted that this regimen caused an increase in circulating inflammatory cytokines as well as behavioral and brain biochemical changes consistent with neurodegeneration.”

When the researchers obstructed the Na, K-ATPase signal through the use of NaKtide in fat cells, it stopped the damaging effects of the Western diet on the brains of animals – and the hippocampus in particular.

The hippocampus is the region of the brain that is associated with the regulation of emotional responses and is primarily involved in the storage of long-term memories.

“These data suggest that a Western diet produces cognitive decline and neurodegeneration through increased signaling of Na, K-ATPase and that antagonism of this pathway in adipocytes improves pathophysiology,” they said.

In addition, mice fed the Western diet showed signs of behavioral changes consistent with those typical of humans with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
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If these findings are also observed in humans, the study authors suggested that the Na, K-ATPase adipocyte could serve as a clinical target in the therapy of neurodegenerative disorders.

Previous studies have shown that a Western diet increases the risk of death after a diagnosis of prostate cancer and intensifies the severity of sepsis.

The Western diet typically includes overeating too much refined sugars, highly refined and saturated fats, and too many calories.

While the Western diet has been found to cause many adverse health effects, such as obesity, scientists have also already published studies regarding its negative impact on behavior, cognition, and emotions.


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