It’s been known for some time that an unhealthy diet can increase the risk for Alzheimer’s. In particular, a high-fat diet is said to up the risk substantially. Because of this, Alzheimer’s prevention has focused on improving diet and remedying any metabolic dysfunctions that occur because of a high-fat diet. This is exactly what the Japanese researchers thought they would prove when they designed a clinical trial.
The study they conducted demonstrated that mice fed a high-fat diet showed worsening of cognitive function compared to control mice on a normal diet. However, they discovered something else: voluntary exercise offsets the negative health consequences of a high-fat diet — specifically memory impairment and amyloid plaque build-up in the brain. Surprised by this, the researchers conducted another study that compared the effect of diet control on cognitive function to that of voluntary exercise as well as
that of combined (diet control plus exercise) treatment. (Note that amyloid plaque is a buildup of protein that has been found to occur around nerve cells in the brain of Alzheimer’s patients.)
Sure enough, the researchers found that exercise was more effective than diet alone, although both exercise and diet did improve memory functioning and reduce plaque deposits. Although the production of amyloid plaque remained roughly the same between the exercise- and the diet control-treated mice, other differences were noted. Exercise specifically strengthened the activity of a substance called “neprilysin.” Neprilysin is an enzyme that helps degrade amyloid plaques in the brain. The researchers also noted that the effect of the combination treatment (exercise and diet control) on memory and amyloid pathology was not significantly different from that of exercise alone.
The researchers concluded that exercise is a useful intervention to reduce cognitive decline. Yet another great reason why you should be getting exercise every day. Keep your brain free from plaque by eating the right foods and, most of all, by staying active every day.
For other health advice about exercise and nutrition, read the article How Exercise Actually Makes You Eat Better.