Research by scientists at Wake Forest School of Medicine suggests that diet has the potential to affect the gut microbiome in ways that could decrease the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
In a small pilot study, the researchers identified several distinct gut microbiome signatures—the chemicals produced by bacteria—in participants with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) but not in their counterparts with normal cognition. They found that the bacterial signatures correlated with higher levels of markers of Alzheimer's disease in the cerebrospinal fluid of the participants with MCI. Through cross-group dietary intervention, the study also showed that a modified Mediterranean-ketogenic diet produced changes in the gut microbiome and its metabolites that correlated with reduced levels of Alzheimer's markers in the members of both study groups.
“The relationship of the gut microbiome and diet to neurodegenerative diseases has recently received considerable attention, and this study suggests that Alzheimer’s disease is associated with specific changes in gut bacteria and that a type of ketogenic Mediterranean diet can affect the microbiome in ways that could impact the development of dementia,” said study coauthor Hariom Yadav.
The randomized, double-blind, single-site study involved 17 older adults, 11 with diagnosed MCI and six with normal cognition. The participants were randomly assigned to follow either the low-carbohydrate modified Mediterranean-ketogenic diet or a low-fat, higher carbohydrate diet for six weeks. After a six-week “washout” period, each group switched to the other diet. Gut microbiome, fecal short-chain fatty acids, and markers of Alzheimer’s, including amyloid and tau proteins, in cerebrospinal fluid were measured before and after each dieting period.
Although the study lacks diversity due to the small subject group size, Yadav notes that the “findings provide important information that future interventional and clinical studies can be based on. Determining the specific role these gut microbiome signatures have in the progression of Alzheimer’s disease could lead to novel nutritional and therapeutic approaches that would be effective against the disease.”
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