In the last few years, many studies have shown that a typical Western diet may increase the risk of chronic gut infections, sepsis, and prostate cancer.
A recent study published in the iScience journal has found that this diet may also negatively affect the brain, resulting in neurodegeneration and cognitive decline.
Neurodegenerative issues include a group of diseases caused by loss of function and structure of the peripheral or central nervous system. The two most common ones include Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.
Previous research indicates that a poor diet and obesity may increase the risk of these conditions.
A typical Western diet typically contains a large amount of food with low nutritional value and high fat and calorie contents. In this new research, the authors have found that following this diet may increase Na, K-ATPase that signal fat cells, which leads to neurodegeneration and cognitive decline.
The scientists gave gene-altered mice either a Western or a normal diet for 12 weeks in the project. At the same time, these mice were given doxycycline, an antibiotic that can activate NaKtide in fat cells.
After 12 weeks, the authors found that the body weight of mice with a Western diet increased noticeably in comparison with the body weight of mice with a normal diet. The former group also had reduced levels of oxygen, low energy, and significant insulin resistance.
In addition, a Western diet raises the levels of cytokine molecules, which cause inflammation and increase the risk of neurodegenerative conditions.
Another finding was that the mice with a Western diet experienced some changes in their behaviors and gene expression, which are often noticed in individuals with Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.
According to the authors, the next step is to implementing further research to replicate the results in humans. In addition, the study suggests the feasibility of a therapy that may deactivate Na, K-ATPase in fat cells.
The findings offer a new approach to reducing the harmful effects of a Western diet. Though the study is interesting, the link to neurodegenerative diseases is still preliminary. Further research should be done to learn more about the underlying mechanism and proof of neuronal protection.
The authors reminded that mice differ from humans in numerous ways. Therefore, some parts of the Western diet would be less problematic for us than for mice. Overall, further research is important before we may reach a conclusion.