Researchers from Michigan Medicine have found that a high-fat diet could trigger an early inflammatory response in mice brains via an immune pathway associated with diabetes and neurological disorders.
This connection might explain the link between metabolic dysfunction and cognitive impairment.
While the study didn’t show early changes in cognition, it did reveal insulin resistance and inflammatory activation within three days of starting the high-fat diet.
The scientists focused on the activation of the cGAS/STING immune pathway in a mouse model simulating prediabetes and cognitive impairment or dementia triggered by a high-fat diet.
The cGAS/STING pathway has been associated with obesity and diabetes, conditions that also increase vulnerability to cognitive impairment or dementia.
However, its role in the brain had not been explored until this study.
This immune pathway triggers an early burst of immune response in the brain’s immune cells, the microglia, which play a crucial role in Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.
When the microglia in the hippocampus are activated under high-fat diet conditions, this may contribute to inflammation and degeneration in the nervous system, leading to cognitive impairment or dementia over time.
It’s already known that obesity and diabetes significantly increase the risk of developing dementia and other neurological diseases.
The Michigan Medicine team suggests further research to see if inhibiting the cGAS/STING pathway could be a potential treatment to prevent or reverse harmful changes in the brains of people with cognitive impairment or dementia.
For those interested in brain health, consider reading about how the Mediterranean diet could protect brain health or the potential ways to reverse Alzheimer’s disease.
More recent studies have also linked Vitamin D deficiency to a higher dementia risk, and identified antioxidants that could help reduce the risk of dementia.
This study, conducted by Sarah Elzinga and her team, was published in Frontiers in Immunology.
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