Study links sugar to Alzheimer
A study from the University of Bath has established excess glucose damages a vital enzyme involved with inflammation response to the early stage of the Alzheimer’s disease. Abnormally high blood sugar levels, or hyperglycaemia, is a well-known characteristic of diabetes and obesity.Diabetes patients have an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s, where abnormal proteins aggregate to form plaque and tangles in the brain. Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive, degenerative brain disease and the most common form of dementia, a group of brain disorders that affect a person’s memory, thinking and ability to interact socially. Alzheimer’s disease affects mainly people over 65 years with most affected being people over 85 years.At present, researchers don’t know what causes Alzheimer’s disease. However, scientists do know that people with this illness have abnormal material that builds up in their brain. These protein tangles and plaques disrupt communication between brain cells and lead to eventual cell death and brain shrinkage. University of Bath scientists unravelled the specific molecular link between glucose and Alzheimer’s disease.They found that, in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, glycation damages an enzyme called macrophage migration inhibitory factor known as MIF. MIF, which plays a role in immune response and insulin regulation, is involved in the response of brain cells called glia to the build up of abnormal proteins in the brain during the disease. The researchers believe that inhibition and reduction of MIF activity caused by glycation could be the tipping point in disease progression. It appears that, as the disease progresses, the glycation of these enzymes increases. Professor Jean van den Elsen, from the University of Bath’s department of biology and biochemistry, said: ‘We’ve shown that this enzyme is already modified by glucose in the brains of individuals at the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.’We are now investigating if we can detect similar changes in blood.
Normally MIF would be part of the immune response to the build-up of abnormal proteins in the brain, and scientists think that because sugar damage reduces some MIF functions and completely inhibits others that this could be a tipping point that allows Alzheimer’s to develop. Scientists studied brain samples from people with and without Alzheimer’s disease, using a sensitive technique to detect glycation.Dr Omar Kassaar, from the University of Bath, said excess sugar was “well known to be bad for us when it comes to diabetes and obesity, but this potential link with Alzheimer’s disease is yet another reason that we should be controlling our sugar intake in our diets.”There is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s disease. Available treatments only target symptoms, not the underlying biological cause of the disease. From what I know, the number of annual Alzheimer’s cases are expected to continue growing and most people often see forgetfulness as a problem for the elderly.Alzheimers’s disease begins slowly and insidiously. The first sign is often mild forgetfulness, the person has trouble remembering recent events, activities, or the names of familiar people or things. Of course, elderly people are inclined to be forgetful occasionally, as are people who are depressed or malnourished. But in someone with Alzheimer’s the memory loss becomes increasingly troublesome. They forget things like the names of family members, common words, where they live, and what activities they experienced earlier in the day. As the disease progresses, they get more and more confused. They may lose the ability to manage their own finances or take their medications.In conversation they tend to repeat themselves. They may become anxious or aggressive, or wander away from home. In the end they lose the ability to dress themselves, bathe or toilet themselves, and finally to talk, to eat, and to perform bodily functions. In the terminal stages of the illness, people with Alzheimer’s need round the clock care.How quickly these changes happen can vary from person to person. The average life expectancy for someone with Alzheimer’s disease is generally given as seven to nine years from the time they are diagnosed. Some studies suggest it may be shorter. There’s increasing evidence that Alzheimer’s disease you can reduce your risk of developing the condition. University of Bath study is yet another reason to ditch the sugary stuff.