Here is some good news on the Alzheimer’s front, a front that is not replete with such news. Researchers are reportedly “exhilarated” to find that keeping a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids and low in cholesterol may provide significant protection against Alzheimer’s disease. This type of eating pattern reduces the effects of a specific gene known to cause the disease. Thus, nutrition and healthy eating alone can help offset a genetic predisposition to dementia.
Let’s look more closely. One of the major molecules in our body that plays a role in Alzheimer’s is apolipoprotein E (APOE), a gene found in all our bodies. The gene comes in two forms: a “good” APOE gene and a “bad” APOE gene. The latter is called “APOE4.” In animal models, they investigated the effects of diet and environment on carriers of APOE4. We know that 50% of Alzheimer’s patients have APOE4, so it is believed to put people at risk.
Researchers found, oddly, that exercise and brain stimulation are great for people with the good APOE — but actually negative for those with APOE4. It actually caused the death of brain neurons in the APOE4 mice. The researchers say, if you look at the human population, those with the bad APOE4 gene are more susceptible to stress caused by an environment that stimulates their brain.
Now for the diet angle. APOE is a lipoprotein that we know can be influenced by the good oil found in fish. Fatty fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, famous the world over for their healthful nature and capability to help humans withstand disease. In the study, the researchers introduced three different types of diets: a normal diet; a “bad” diet high in cholesterol; and a “good” diet high in fish oil.
The subjects were mice, which is where these exploratory studies always begin. The message that arises from the study is that good diets can alleviate the effects of bad genes. While nutritionists have trumpeted this for a long time, here we see specific proof from a study. Omega-3 fatty acids, a superpower in the world of nutrition, can counteract the effects of APOE4.
Even if you are at genetic risk for a disease, never give up.