Could changing your diet play a role in slowing or even preventing the progression of dementia? We’re one step closer to finding out, thanks to a new study from UNLV that reinforces the long suspected link between gut health and Alzheimer’s disease.
The analysis — led by a team of researchers from the Nevada Institute for Personalized Medicine (NIPM) at UNLV and published this spring in the Nature Journal Scientific reports – Examined data from dozens of previous studies on the abdominal-brain connection. Results? There is a strong link between certain types of gut bacteria and Alzheimer’s disease.
There are between 500 and 1,000 species of bacteria in the human gut at any given time, and the number and diversity of these microorganisms can be affected by genetics and diet.
The UNLV team’s analysis found a significant association between 10 specific types of gut bacteria and the likelihood of Alzheimer’s disease. Six classes of bacteria – Adlercreutzia, Eubacterium nodatum group, Eisenbergiella, Eubacterium fissicatena group, Gordonibacter, And Prevotella 9 – Identified as protective, four bacteria – Collinsella, Bacteroides, Lachnospira, And Philonella It has been identified as a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease.
Certain bacteria in the human gut can secrete acids and toxins that seep through the lining of the gut and interact with the gut APOE (a gene identified as a major risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease), and triggers a neuroinflammatory response – affecting brain health and many immune functions, and potentially promoting the development of the neurodegenerative disorder.
Researchers said their new discovery of distinct bacterial populations associated with Alzheimer’s disease provides new insights into the relationship between the gut microbiota and the world’s most common forms of dementia. The findings also advance scientists’ understanding of how an imbalance of these bacteria may play a role in the development of the disorder.
“Most microorganisms in our gut are good bacteria that promote health, but an imbalance of these bacteria can be toxic to the human immune system and linked to various diseases, such as depression, heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease,” said Jingchun Chen, UNLV Research Professor. “The message we take home here is that not only do your genes determine whether you have a risk of disease, but they can also influence the abundance of bacteria in your gut.”
While their analysis identified comprehensive classes of bacteria commonly associated with Alzheimer’s disease, the UNLV team said more research is needed to dig into the specific bacterial species that influence risk or protection.
The hope is that one day we will develop treatments that are tailored to the individual patient and their genetic make-up, like medications or lifestyle changes. Studies have shown that changes to the gut microbiome through the use of probiotics and dietary modifications can positively affect the immune system, inflammation, and even brain function.
“With more research, it will be possible to identify a genetic pathway that could indicate which gut microbiome may be more or less susceptible to diseases like Alzheimer’s,” said the study’s senior author, UNLV graduate student Davis Kaman, “but we also have to remember The gut biome is affected by many factors including lifestyle and diet.”