In a study from King’s College London and elsewhere, scientists found an accumulation of fat in the liver causes a decrease in oxygen to the brain and inflammation to brain tissue—both of which have been proven to lead to the onset of severe brain diseases.
The team examined the link between non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and brain dysfunction.
NAFLD affects approximately 25% of the population and more than 80% of morbidly obese people.
Several studies have reported the negative effects of an unhealthy diet and obesity can have on brain function however this is believed to be the first study that clearly links NAFLD with brain deterioration and identifies a potential therapeutic target.
The current study involved feeding two different diets to mice.
Half of the mice consumed a diet with no more than 10% fat in their calorie intake, while the other half’s calorie intake contained 55% fat; intended to resemble a diet of processed foods and sugary drinks.
After 16 weeks, the researchers conducted a series of tests to compare the effects of these diets on the body and more specifically, on the liver and the brain.
They found that all mice consuming the higher levels of fat were considered obese, and developed NAFLD, insulin resistance and brain dysfunction.
The study also showed that the brain of mice with NAFLD suffered from lower oxygen levels.
This is because the disease affects the number and thickness of the brain blood vessels, which deliver less oxygen to the tissue, but also due to specific cells consuming more oxygen while the brain is becoming inflamed.
These mice were also more anxious and showed signs of depression.
By comparison, the mice consuming the healthy diet did not develop NAFLD or insulin resistance, they behaved normally, and their brain was completely healthy.
The team says it is very concerning to see the effect that fat accumulation in the liver can have on the brain, especially because it often starts off mild and can exist silently for many years without people knowing they have it.
This research emphasizes that cutting down the amount of sugar and fat in our diets is not only important for tackling obesity, but also for protecting the liver to maintain brain health and minimize the risk of developing conditions like depression and dementia during aging, when our brain becomes even more fragile.
If you care about liver health, please read studies about new promising drug for pancreatic and liver cancer, and how sugary beverages affects the liver.
For more information about liver health, please see recent studies about a new therapy for fatty liver disease, and results showing oats and rye brans can protect your gut and liver health.
The study was conducted by Dr. Anna Hadjihambi et al and published in the Journal of Hepatology.
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