Data from the World Health Organization (WHO) reveals that around 50 million people worldwide have dementia and 10 million new cases emerge every year. Alzheimer’s disease or AD is the most common form of dementia contributing to 60-70 percent of dementia cases from around the world. While the risks of both dementia and AD increase after the age of 60 years, a 2018 study in The Lancet Neurology showed that women carry a larger burden of the disease than men do.
Gender and Alzheimer’s disease
A recent study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease further explains that Alzheimer’s progression and severity are affected by biological sex differences, with women experiencing greater cognitive decline. This study indicates that the levels of estradiol (a type of estrogen, which is the major female sex hormone) in women’s bodies correlates to their level of cognitive decline due to AD.
The study indicates that factors such as age, reproductive stage, hormone levels and other risk factors should be considered in women with AD. And given the link established between estrogen and AD, estradiol replacement therapy may be initiated during early menopausal stages of their life to prevent the occurrence of AD in women.
Gut bacteria, diet and Alzheimer’s disease
No matter what your age or gender, however, there are other factors that can increase the risks of developing AD. Mild cognitive impairment or MCI, for example, is a critical stage that should not be ignored. MCI causes a slight but noticeable and measurable decline in cognitive function and people with MCI are at an increased risk of developing AD or other types of dementia because of this. Preventing MCI can therefore be vital in preventing Alzheimer’s.
A new study in EBioMedicine shows that patients with MCI have a specific signature of gut bacteria and fungi, and adopting a modified Mediterranean-ketogenic diet (MMKD) can improve AD markers in both cerebrospinal fluid and gut mycobiome (also known as fungal microbiome).
The study measured the gut mycobiome of 17 older adults before and after a 6-week intervention of MMKD to determine this diet’s correlation with AD markers, cerebrospinal fluid and gut bacteria and fungi. Patients with MCI have a higher proportion of certain bacterial and fungal families. The intervention of MMKD had a broad effect on the fungal diversity of the gut, regulating it in ways to minimise the action of harmful fungi while maximising the effect of healthier fungi.
Modified Mediterranean-ketogenic Diet for cognitive health
This study supports the findings of previous research studies that link gut microbiome and health with cognitive function and decline, and clearly indicates that the adoption of a certain type of diet – MMKD in this case – can regulate this microbiome enough to reduce the symptoms of MCI and, in turn, reduce the risk of AD. In case you’re wondering what this MMKD diet entails, it’s actually a blend of Mediterranean and ketogenic diets.
Keto diet is a low-carb and high-fat diet but prolonged intake of saturated fats may have negative health effects. Instead, researchers have devised a way to modify the original keto diet by adding four key components of the Mediterranean diet – vegetables, fruits, olive oil and fish. This dietary modification ensures that even though the intake of carbs is slightly higher than the original keto diet, the fats are of a healthier nature.
The MMKD is, therefore, a more sustainable diet system and, as the above-mentioned study shows, it can regulate the gut microbiome in a way that improves cognitive function instead of letting it decline enough for Alzheimer’s or dementia to strike.
For more information, read our article on Alzheimer’s Disease.
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