High-fat diet causes inflammation in brain, linked to dementia

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In a study from Michigan Medicine, scientists have discovered that a high-fat diet promotes an early inflammatory response in the brains of mice through an immune pathway linked to diabetes and neurologic diseases.

This suggests a possible bridge between metabolic dysfunction and cognitive impairment.

In the study, the researchers analyzed activation of the cGAS/STING immune pathway in a high-fat diet mouse model of prediabetes and cognitive impairment or dementia.

Though early changes in cognition were not detected, results reveal insulin resistance, as well as inflammatory activation of cGAS/STING and the microglia, the brain’s immune cells, within three days of feeding.

The team says while there is evidence suggesting a role for cGAS/STING in obesity and diabetes, both of which make patients more vulnerable to cognitive impairment or dementia, its role in the brain has not been previously studied.

This pathway is involved in an early burst of immune response in the microglia, which plays a critical role in Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.

If microglia are activated in the hippocampus under high-fat diet conditions, that may contribute to inflammation and degeneration in the nervous system and eventual cognitive impairment or dementia.

Previous research had found obesity and diabetes are strongly linked to the development of dementia and other neurologic diseases.

The team says further research is needed to examine if inhibiting the cGAS/STING pathway is a possible treatment target for reversing or preventing harmful changes in the brains of people who develop cognitive impairment or dementias.

If you care about brain health, please read studies about how the Mediterranean diet could protect your brain health, and scientists find possible way to reverse Alzheimer’s disease.

For more information brain health, please see recent studies about Vitamin D deficiency linked to higher dementia risk, and these antioxidants could help reduce dementia risk.

The study was conducted by Sarah Elzinga et al and published in Frontiers in Immunology.

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