The August 2002 issue of Archives of Neurology published the results of research supported in part by the National Institutes on Aging which showed that a higher intake of calories and fats may increase the risk of Alzheimer's disease for some individuals. Researchers at Columbia University in New York followed 980 elderly individuals without Alzheimer's disease for four years while analyzing their calorie, carbohydrate, fat and protein intake, and testing for the apolipoprotein E (APOE) epsilon 4 allele, which is a gene associated with Alzheimer's disease. The average daily intake of calories was 1,316 for men and 1,267 for women. Fat consumption averaged 38 grams per day for both genders.
Participants were divided into four groups depending upon the amount of daily calories consumed. During the follow up period, 263 (28%) were found to have the APOE epsilon 4 gene, and 242 participants were diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. It was discovered that the group consuming the greatest number of calories had a 50% higher chance of developing Alzheimer's disease than those who consumed the least.
Individuals with the APOE epsilon 4 gene whose calorie consumption was the highest had 2.3 times the risk of developing Alzheimer's than did those with the gene who consumed the least amounts. This risk factor was the same for individuals with the highest fat intake compared to the lowest. In those lacking APOE epsilon 4, fat and calorie intake were not associated with Alzheimer's disease risk.
The researchers, led by Jose A. Luchsinger, MD of Columbia University, explained, "Calorie restriction may also decrease [nerve cell] death and increase expression of neurotrophic factors in the brain. Reduced calorie intake can increase the brain's capacity for plasticity and repair in neurodegenerative disorders, including AD."
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