2023-11-14| R&D

New Research Links High-Sugar Diets and Obesity to Neurodegenerative Disorders

by Sinead Huang
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Researchers led by Mroj Alassaf at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in the United States have unveiled a compelling link between obesity and neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease. Obesity has long been associated with an increased risk of conditions like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, but the precise mechanisms behind this connection have remained elusive.

Related article: Gut Microbiome Composition Offers Insights for Diagnosis and Intervention of Early Alzheimer’s Disease

High-Sugar Diets and Insulin Resistance

This groundbreaking research utilized the common fruit fly as a model organism to delve into the relationship between a high-sugar diet, a hallmark of obesity, and insulin resistance in the brain. The findings, published in the open access journal PLOS Biology on November 7, highlight the impact of dietary choices on brain health. A high-sugar diet was found to cause insulin resistance in the brain, impairing its ability to clear neuronal debris.

The study’s focus shifted to examining glial cells in the fruit fly’s brain, as these cells play a pivotal role in neural health. Disruptions in microglial function have been linked to neural degeneration. The research revealed that a high-sugar diet led to reduced levels of the protein PI3k in glial cells, a clear indicator of insulin resistance. Additionally, ensheathing glia, the fruit fly’s equivalent of microglia, exhibited low levels of the protein Draper, signaling impaired functionality. Artificially reducing PI3k levels was shown to cause insulin resistance and low Draper levels in ensheathing glia.

Insights and Future Implications

The findings provide valuable insights into the mechanisms underlying the increased risk of neurodegenerative disorders associated with obesity-inducing diets. By utilizing fruit flies as a model, the research emphasizes that high-sugar diets can trigger insulin resistance in glial cells, affecting their ability to clear neuronal debris. This connection sheds light on the intricate relationship between diet, insulin resistance, and neurodegeneration, potentially influencing future therapies aimed at reducing the risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases. Understanding these pathways is crucial in addressing the global health challenge posed by conditions like Alzheimer’s disease.

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