High Fat Diet and Alzheimer’s Link

Is there a link between a high fat diet and Alzheimer’s Disease?


In a new study, doctors from Auburn University had this to say: “High fat diet-induced obesity is associated with insulin resistance and other chronic, diet related illnesses, including dementia. Alzheimer disease is the most common form of dementia.”

In most healthy adults, the pancreas releases insulin into the bloodstream every time a meal is consumed. Insulin encourages our body’s tissues and muscles to use the glucose (sugar) from our food as a basic fuel to provide energy to the cells. Type 2 Diabetes results when the body develops an insulin resistance as the cells of the muscle, fat, and liver do not responding normally to the insulin. Although insulin is being produced in a Type 2 diabetic, the body’s cells are not able to use it to take the sugar from the blood.

In an animal study, the Auburn doctors changed the diet of laboratory mice to see if the foods the animals ate affected their cognitive abilities.

To no one’s surprise, the mice fed a high fat diet became obese and the diet altered their insulin and glucose tolerance levels. This is the typical pre-diabetes/diabetes cycle factors. Your body does not produce enough insulin to process the glucose (sugar) in your blood.

What the Auburn researchers discovered was that these changes in insulin tolerance also increased the body’s inflammatory response and its stress response, the “oxidant” environment. The oxidant environment leads to an increase in amyloid plaques and Alzheimer’s and dementia.1

New research from Cambridge University in the United Kingdom supports this conclusion, suggesting that  obesity may be associated with learning and memory deficits, and in particular with reductions in episodic memory (memory related to time, places, events, for example, remembering when you went to a restaurant and if they food was good.) The Cambridge researchers used a “treasure hunt,” experiment, laboratory mice had to get something from a specific place within a specific time.

The mice who had insulin resistance and obesity did not perform as well as the mice who did not. 2

If memory concerns are an issue, discuss with your doctorresearch like this. It could be your high fat diet.

1: Kothari V, Luo Y, Tornabene T, O’Neill AM, Greene MW, Geetha T, Babu JR. High fat diet induces brain insulin resistance and cognitive impairment in mice.Biochim Biophys Acta. 2017 Feb;1863(2):499-508. [Pubmed]

2: Cheke LG, Bonnici HM, Clayton NS, Simons JS. Obesity and insulin resistance are associated with reduced activity in core memory regions of the brain. Neuropsychologia. 2017 Jan 16;96:137-149. [Pubmed]

3: Marion Hauser, MS RD, Nutrition for Healing article