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Obesity and dementia

February 1, 2016
by Pamela Tabar, Editor-in-Chief
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Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham have discovered yet another reason for people to watch their weight—new evidence of the link between obesity and dementia.

Scientists have suspected a link between obesity and cognitive decline for years, but the current study is the first to dig deeper into the exact genes and reasons for the chemical changes in the hippocampus—the part of the brain that forms long-term memories.

Four specific genes in the brain’s hippocampus are altered when chronic obesity is present, causing neurons to misfire and affect memory impairment, according to study results published in the Journal of Neuroscience. The study, which was based on mice, showed that changes in gene expression began to affect memory after only five months of diet-induced obesity, and got worse over time.

The study also showed a link between healthier hippocampus genes and resveratrol—an antioxidant found in the skins of red grapes and other berries. Obese mice that were fed resveratrol had better memory recall than obese mice without the supplement—suggesting that the resveratrol played a role in preserving the function of the hippocampus.

“We feel this is a very exciting finding that identifies a new linkage between diet, epigenetics and cognitive function, especially in light of the burgeoning obesity epidemic in the U.S. and elsewhere,” said J. David Sweatt, PhD, one of the study authors, in a university release. The research could lead to “a novel working model that may serve as a conceptual basis for the development of therapeutic interventions for obesity-induced memory impairment.”

To learn more about the study, see th detailed discussion published by the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

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