According to a major study, foods that stimulate ‘healthy bacteria’ in the gut, including oats, berries, bananas, garlic, leeks and onions, can play a role in preventing Alzheimer’s disease.
Scottish dementia experts have identified recent research as “exciting” that has shown a “undeniable” link between an imbalance of gut bacteria and the production of damaging brain amyloid plaques for the first time.
They found that proteins formed by certain gut bacteria, detected in the blood of patients, can alter and cause the disease’s interaction between the immune and nervous systems.
It is now understood that in patients with Alzheimer’s disease, the composition of the intestinal flora is altered relative to individuals who do not have the disease.
Their microbiota, with an over-representation of some bacteria and a sharp decline of other microbes, indicates decreased diversity.
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A cohort of elderly people aged 65 to 85 was examined by Italian and Swiss scientists.
Many had Alzheimer’s disease or other neurodegenerative diseases that caused similar issues with their memory, although others had no problems with their memory.
The researchers measured the quantity of harmful plaques using PET scans and then quantified the existence of different inflammatory markers and
Proteins that are produced by gut bacteria.
High amyloid deposits in the brain have been associated with elevated blood levels of lipopolysaccharides and some short-chain fatty acids (acetate and valerate).
In comparison, with less amyloid pathology, high levels of another short-chain fatty acid, butyrate, were associated.
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The study’s lead author, Moira Marizzoni of the Fatebenefratelli Center in Brescia, Italy, said, “Our results are indisputable: certain bacterial products of the gut microbiota correlate with the amount of amyloid plaques in the brain.”
The researchers said the finding paves the way for possible preventive measures, such as the administration of a “bacterial cocktail” or prebiotics to feed the “good” bacteria in the gut, but warned that such treatments would have to be implemented at a very early stage of the disease.
Professor Craig Ritchie, University of Edinburgh professor of aging psychiatry and director of Brain Health Scotland, said, “This is an exciting avenue of investigation that makes perfect biological sense.”
The body, collectively known as the microbiome, is made of trillions of bacteria, viruses and fungi. Although some bacteria are associated with disease, for the immune system, heart, weight and many other aspects of health, others are said to be significant.
The healthy bacteria are probiotics, while the good bacteria boosters are prebiotics. To keep the gastrointestinal tract healthy, they work in partnership with each other.
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They are both available as dietary supplements, but can be added to the diet as well. Sauerkraut contains probiotic sources.
A correlation between inflammation, certain gut bacteria and Alzheimer’s disease has already been shown by researchers at the University of Geneva and they wanted to study the relationship in more detail.
“High blood levels of lipopolysaccharides and certain short-chain fatty acids (acetate and valerate) have been associated with large amyloid deposits in the brain,” said Moira Marizzoni, from the Fatebenefratelli Center in Brescia.
“Conversely, high levels of another short-chain fatty acid, butyrate, were associated with less amyloid pathology,” he said.
“This work thus provides evidence for a link between certain proteins in the gut microbiota and cerebral amyloidosis through an inflammatory phenomenon in the blood.”
Craig Ritchie, University of Edinburgh professor of aging psychiatry and director of Brain Health Scotland, said the next step would be to test the results in a wider patient cohort.
“This science is still a few years away from practical implications, as much still needs to be done and understood, but this is certainly new evidence that further links gastrointestinal tract and brain health.”This science is still a few years away from practical consequences, as much still needs to be done and understood, but this is definitely new evidence that links gastrointestinal tract and brain health further.
The Think Dementia movement seeks to strengthen people with dementia and their families’ care, treatment and financial support.