Alzheimer’s disease is a devastating condition that affects millions of people worldwide, and despite decades of research, there is still no cure. However, a new hypothesis has emerged that links a type of sugar called fructose to the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
According to previous research, fructose in the brain helped our ancestors forage for food by inhibiting certain parts of the brain’s metabolism and blocking distractions such as recent memories and the passing of time. This “survival switch” helped our ancestors focus on survival, exploration, and risk-taking behaviours. However, this mechanism could be causing more harm than good in our modern world.
The latest study published in the journal 'The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition' suggests that the “survival switch” could be permanently turned on in our brains, even though we no longer need it foraging. As a result, many of us consume more high-fat, sugary, and salty foods than we need to produce more fructose, which could lead to inflammation in the brain and, ultimately, the conditions that cause Alzheimer’s disease.
The researchers believe that fructose-dependent reduction in cerebral metabolism was initially reversible and meant to be beneficial. However, chronic and persistent reduction in cerebral metabolism driven by recurrent fructose metabolism leads to progressive brain atrophy and neuron loss with all the features of Alzheimer’s disease.
The researchers hypothesized that fructose and its byproduct, intracellular uric acid, are causing the build-up of proteins linked to Alzheimer’s disease. This includes reducing blood flow to certain brain parts, increasing blood flow around the visual cortex (linked to food reward signals), and the failure of brain cells called astrocytes. This can lead to amyloid plaque accumulation linked with Alzheimer’s.
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