Here we go again, another blogger harping on the importance of proper nutrition and the consequences that accompany bad food choices. Nowadays, it seems like every health issue boils down to what we eat and how much we eat. Everyone has an opinion on what you should and shouldn’t eat, often contradicting one another. The amount of information out there is quite overwhelming, and can steer people away from implementing better habits. The problems that are often brought up, with regards to poor nutrition, are obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and so on. The list is somewhat endless, and so, what on Earth could I add to such a list?
I did know that eating healthy can improve cognitive functioning, but I never thought about the reverse effect. It has been shown that overnutrition (too many calories) can put someone at a higher risk for developing Alzheimer’s Disease. As someone who is already at a higher risk, due to a family history of Alzheimer’s, the idea that something as basic as nutrition could increase my risk is rather important.
How is Overnutrition Associated with Alzheimer’s?
When we eat, we activate one of the many pathways in our brains, one of which involves insulin. Overeating can lead to an overactivation of the pathway, which seems to be the case in Alzheimer’s. Insulin levels increase throughout the body when we eat and can activate the PI3K pathway located in our brains. Insulin does this by binding to a receptor on the neuron, which turns on the enzyme known as PI3k. PI3k can ultimately lead to the turning on of many other enzymes such as AKT and mTOR. Our body naturally produces other enzymes that can turn off this particular pathway (i.e. PTEN, FOXO, GSK).
As mentioned previously, Alzheimer’s contains an overactivation of this pathway, as well as, shuts down the “off switches”, which leads to the production of neuro-fiber tangles (NFTs) within the neuron and A-beta plaques outside of the neuron. Together, the tangles and plaques create a bad environment for our neurons, thus killing the neurons. The killing of the neurons contribute to the memory loss that is attributed to Alzheimer’s.
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