The way in which diets high in Omega 3 oils and low in cholesterol fight Alzheimer's has been discovered by scientists.
Daniel Michaelson of Tel Aviv University's Department of Neurobiology at the George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences found that APOE-one of the five molecules that are known to affect or cause Alzheimer's disease and created by the apolipoprotein E. gene found in all of our bodies-comes in two forms, a 'good' APOE gene and a 'bad' APOE gene, called APOE4.
In preliminary results, the researchers found that a diet high in fish oil appeared to significantly reduce the negative effects of the APOE4 gene in mouse models.
In differentiating between the good and bad variants of the APOE gene, Michaelson and his team studied many variables.
They determined that while a rich and stimulating environment is good for carriers of 'good' APOE, the same environment has a negative effect on those at risk for Alzheimer's because they carry the APOE4 gene. While this environment stimulated the formation of new neuronal connections in the 'good APOE' mice, it caused the death of brain neurons in the 'bad APOE' mice.
The stimulating environment included running wheels and tubes for hiding and sliding, as well as ropes and other toys for the mice to play on, replaced and updated with new toys weekly. Those in a non-stimulating environment had access to no toys at all.
"Conditions that are generally considered good can be harmful if the mouse is a carrier of the APOE4 gene. Extrapolating this to the human population, individuals with the bad APOE4 gene are more susceptible to stress caused by an environment that stimulates their brain," said Michaelson.
"The main take-away message here is that good diets can alleviate the effects of bad genes. Of course nutritionists have had this general idea for a while, but it's nice to be able to show that this approach can be applied to specifically counteract the negative effects of Alzheimer's disease-related genes," said Michaelson.
The results will be presented at an international conference in Barcelona, Spain this March.