Your gut health could dictate whether you develop Alzheimer’s disease, world-first study shows

People with gut and digestive issues may suffer from additional complications like mood disorders. Now, these complications have been found to possibly extend to Alzheimer’s disease development.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most prevalent form of dementia and is best known for wrecking memory and cognition. In the past, observational research has suggested a possible link to gut-related conditions without a clear understanding of how this actually looks. Edith Cowan University’s Center for Precision Health offers new insight into this, confirming a genetic link between Alzheimer’s and gut disorders.

The researchers analyzed sets of genetic data from Alzheimer’s and gut disorder-related studies, each including close to 400,000 people. As they continued their analysis, they began to suggest that cholesterol may play a role. Abnormal levels of it were shown to be a risk factor for both conditions.

“Looking at the genetic and biological characteristics common to AD and these gut disorders suggests a strong role for lipids metabolism, the immune system, and cholesterol-lowering medications,” says research lead Dr. Emmanuel Adewuyi in a statement. “There is also evidence suggesting abnormal blood lipids may be caused or made worse by gut bacteria (H.pylori), all of which support the potential roles of abnormal lipids in AD and gut disorders.”

The link to cholesterol may be pivotal to understanding future treatment options for Alzheimer’s. It’s suggested that evidence of high cholesterol can seep into the central nervous system, resulting in abnormal metabolism of it in the brain. While there are currently no known cures, the study’s findings suggest that cholesterol lowering medications (statins) could prove to be beneficial in treating not only high cholesterol, but also Alzheimer’s and gut disorders. This may be due to its ability to reduce inflammation and regulate immunity.

Researchers believe this is crucial since inflammation is a trigger for neurodegeneration. Similarly, poor immunity is a complication that can exacerbate existing gut disorders.

By 2030, it’s expected that Alzheimer’s disease will cost the United States $2 trillion, and affect 82 million lives. “These findings provide further evidence to support the concept of the ‘gut-brain’ axis, a two-way link between the brain’s cognitive and emotional centers, and the functioning of the intestines,” says Professor Simon Laws, Centre for Precision Health director and study supervisor.

Although the study wasn’t able to confirm a definitive causative link between the two conditions, these findings are invaluable for greater gut and neurology research frameworks that support preventive and early treatment measures.

The study is published in the journal Communications Biology.


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About the Author

Shyla Cadogan

Shyla Cadogan is a recent graduate from the University of Maryland, College Park with a Bachelor’s of Science in Nutrition and Food Science. She is on her way to becoming a Registered Dietitian, with next steps being completion of a dietetic internship at the University of Maryland Medical Center. Shyla has extensive research experience in food composition analysis and food resource management.

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