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KU Study: High-glycemic diet might be associated with possible risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease in older adults

A study by researchers at the University of Kansas Medical Center suggests limiting the amount of high-glycemic foods - foods such as sugars and simple carbohydrates - in the diet of older people could reduce a possible risk factor associated with Alzheimer's disease.

Matthew Taylor, Ph.D., a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Dietetics and Nutrition, was the lead author on a study looking at the role consuming a high-glycemic diet plays in the build-up of a protein known as beta-amyloid in the brains of older adults. In the study, the team at KU performed brain amyloid scans on 128 older adults with normal cognitive function.

The researchers found that when the participants ate more sugar and simple carbohydrates, increasing their glycemic load, they had more amyloid deposits in their brains. A theory, known as the "amyloid cascade hypothesis," posits that Alzheimer's is triggered by a build-up of beta-amyloid, which accumulates around neurons, disrupting communication between brain cells and eventually destroying them.

"There was a really strong relationship between how closely our participants' diets resembled the high-glycemic diet pattern and their brain amyloid levels," Taylor said. "This is significant because amyloid is one of the most prominent risk factors for Alzheimer's disease, and these results tie nutrition to this biomarker."  

Sticky clumps of protein, known as amyloid plaques, have been found in the brains of all Alzheimer's patients, although no clear cause-and-effect relationship has been established between plaques and the disease.    

The study was published online in "The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition."

Last modified: Sep 07, 2018