Is Your Teen Eating an Alzheimer’s-provoking Diet?
Studies have linked a sedentary lifestyle and eating a western diet to increased susceptibility to Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, being sedentary and eating the typical American diet contributes to about 25% of Alzheimer’s disease cases.
A mouse study looks at these risk factors
A recent study fed mice “western diet chow” that mimicked what Americans typically eat. The chow contained high amounts of animal products, fats, sugars, and low amounts of produce. Nutrient-density was considered poor. Prior studies had tested individual components of the western diet, but not meals representing all the components. Two groups of mice were fed over an eight month period. One group was considered healthy at baseline, while the other group had some aspects of Alzheimer’s disease present. The mice age at the beginning of the study was similar to that of teens. By the end of the study, the average mouse was early middle aged.
The link between an American-style diet and Alzheimer’s disease
The researchers found that eating the western diet-styled chow daily for the eight months led to an increase immune response in the brains of mice in both groups. That means that even the mice that were healthy at baseline showed the negative impact. The study also bolstered the theory that a western diet is inflammatory in nature, and that over time, the inflammation increases the white cell immune response, and in this case, can instigate Alzheimer’s disease susceptibility.
TREM2 is a marker for Alzheimer’s risk
Specifically, an increase of microglia/monocytes that express a key immune regulatory protein, TREM2 was noted. TREM2 has been linked to Alzheimer’s susceptibility. This was the first study to show the TREM2 response in mice exposed to a prolonged western-style diet. Studies have also linked increased TREM2 cell numbers and increased beta-amyloid plaque burden in the brains of mice.
Some individuals will develop cognitive dysfunction that may be diet-induced or diet-related. More importantly, the message from the study is to take note of the impact that diet has during the teen years and beyond, especially if there is no attempt to modify unhealthy choices. Many teens are eating the typical western diet of fast foods, processed foods and sugary liquids.
This research should inspire the public health sector, pediatricians, and parents to take a step back and evaluate the current diet that kids and teens eat. Most likely it reflects a western diet filled with processed and refined foods, fast foods, and high levels of sugars and fats. There is likely also a dearth of plant-based proteins and produce. Follow the new Dietary Guidelines and swap out unhealthy foods for lean proteins, whole grains, low fat and fat free dairy products, fruits and vegetables, and healthy fats. Limit treats and monitor overall calories.
Teaching teens about nutrition and the elements of a healthy, balanced diet is a significant core element of the HealthCorps curriculum.
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