Scientists at the Roger Williams Liver Institute, affiliated with King’s College London and the University of Lausanne, in a study looking at the link between non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and brain dysfunction, found that fat builds up in the liver. found to cause brain dysfunction. Decreased oxygen to the brain and inflammation to brain tissue – both have been shown to lead to the development of serious brain diseases.
NAFLD affects approximately 25% of the population and more than 80% of morbidly obese individuals. Although several studies have reported the adverse effects of unhealthy diet and obesity on brain function, this is the first study to clearly link NAFLD to brain decline and identify potential therapeutic targets. It is considered
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In this study, conducted in collaboration with Inserm (French National Institute of Health and Medicine) and the University of Poitiers, France, mice were fed two different diets. Half of the mice ate a diet containing 10% or less fat of their caloric intake, while the other half contained 55% fat in their caloric intake. It is intended to mimic a diet of processed foods and sugary drinks.
After 16 weeks, the researchers conducted a series of tests to compare the effects of these diets on the body, more specifically on the liver and brain. considered obese and developed NAFLD, insulin resistance, and impaired brain function.
A study funded by the University of Lausanne and the Liver Research Foundation also showed that the brains of mice with NAFLD suffered from declining oxygen levels. This is because the disease affects the number and size of blood vessels in the brain, delivering less oxygen to tissues, but during brain inflammation certain cells consume more oxygen. These mice were also more anxious and showed signs of depression.
By comparison, mice on a healthy diet did not develop NAFLD or insulin resistance, behaved normally, and had perfectly healthy brains.
Lead author Dr. Anna Hajihambi said, “It is very concerning to see the effects of fat stored in the liver on the brain, especially when people start with a mild condition and realize they have it.” He is sub-team leader of the Liver-Brain Axis Group at the Roger Williams Institute of Hepatology and an Honorary Lecturer at King’s College London.
To combat NAFLD’s dangerous effects on the brain, scientists bred mice with reduced levels of a whole-body protein known as monocarboxylate transporter 1 (MCT1). This protein is specialized in transporting energy substrates used by various cells. for normal function.
When these mice were fed the same diet rich in unhealthy fats and sugars as in the first experiment, they showed no fat accumulation in the liver, no signs of brain dysfunction, and were protected from both diseases.
Professor Luc Pellerin, director of the Inserm U1313 research unit at the University of Poitiers in France and a senior research fellow on the study, said: “It highlights potential mechanisms operating within the liver-brain axis and points to possible therapeutic targets.”
Dr Hajihambi added: “This study shows that reducing the amount of sugar and fat in our diet is important not only for tackling obesity, but also for protecting the liver and maintaining brain health, and reducing depression and dementia. It also emphasizes that it is important to minimize the risk of developing conditions such as aging, when our brains become even more vulnerable.
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