A high-fat diet may postpone signs of brain ageing, according to a new study which opens the possibility of novel treatments for those with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
The research by the Center for Healthy Aging at University of Copenhagen, Denmark, and the National Institute of Health in the US studied mice having a defect in their DNA repair system.
In humans, this defect causes the disorder Cockayne syndrome, where patients prematurely age as children and die at an age of 10-12 years.
The study showed that placing a mouse model of Cockayne syndrome on a high-fat diet will postpone ageing processes such as impaired hearing and weight loss.
“The study is good news for children with Cockayne syndrome, because we do not currently have an effective treatment. Our study suggests that a high-fat diet can postpone ageing processes,” said Professor Vilhelm Bohr from the Center for Healthy Ageing, University of Copenhagen and the National Institute of Health, who headed the study.
“A diet high in fat also seems to postpone the ageing of the brain. The findings therefore potentially imply that patients with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease in the long term may benefit from the new knowledge,” Bohr said.
Brain has a constant need for fuel in the form of either sugar or so-called ketones. Ketones are the brain’s fuel reserve, and, in particular, play an important role in periods of low blood sugar levels, eg if you are fasting.
This is because the body breaks down fat if it needs sugar, and during this process it produces ketones.
“In cells from children with Cockayne syndrome, we have previously demonstrated that ageing is a result of the cell repair mechanism being constantly active. It eats into the resources and causes the cell to age very quickly,” said postdoc Morten Scheibye-Knudsen from the National Institute of Health.
“We therefore hope that a diet with a high content of coconut oil or similar fats will have a beneficial effect, because the brain cells are given extra fuel and thus the strength to repair the damage,” Scheibye-Knudsen said.
The study has been published in the journal Cell Metabolism.