For years, scientists and dieticians have advocated the importance of maintaining a healthy gut, particularly for the benefit of our immune system. However, scientists are now also learning about the gut’s impact on our cognitive health.
While conditions like stress and depression have been previously linked to the brain-gut connection, a new study from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) suggests that certain gut bacteria may be a contributor to the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s disease, one of the most common types of dementia, occurs when too much protein builds up in the brain and causes memory cells to die, causing forgetfulness and in some cases permanent memory loss.
In 2023, it is estimated there are more than 400,000 Australians living with dementia. Making it the country’s second-leading cause of death for all Australians and the main cause of death for older women.
One of the main causes of Alzheimer’s protein build-up is due to the activation of certain cells which are regulated by the microorganisms in the gut microbiome.
In this study, the UNLV research team found a strong link between 10 specific types of gut bacteria and Alzheimer’s disease.
However, given that there are over 1,000 species of bacteria in a human gut at any given time, the diversity and amount of these microorganisms depend on a person’s diet.
“Most of the microorganisms in our intestines are considered good bacteria that promote health, but an imbalance of those bacteria can be toxic to a person’s immune system and linked to various diseases, such as depression, heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease,” said UNLV research professor Jingchun Chen.
“The take-home message here is that your genes not only determine whether you have a risk for a disease, but they can also influence the abundance of bacteria in your gut.”
Although the research conducted by the UNLV team identified general categories of bacteria that are linked to Alzheimer’s, Chen’s team says further research is required in order to fully understand what role each of these bacteria plays in increasing or decreasing the risk of developing the condition.
“With more research, it would be possible to identify a genetic trajectory that could point to a gut microbiome that would be more or less prone to developing diseases such as Alzheimer’s,” said study lead author and UNLV graduate student Davis Cammann.
“But we also have to remember that the gut biome is influenced by many factors including lifestyle and diet.”
Our gut microbiome plays a crucial role in maintaining a healthy immune system, regulating hormones, and even influencing mood and brain function. Poor gut health can also lead to inflammation in the body, which is linked to a higher risk of chronic diseases like cancer.
As we age, our bodies become less efficient at absorbing nutrients, making it even more important to focus on maintaining good gut health through a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle habits. By prioritising gut health, we can improve their overall health and reduce their risk of a wide range of health issues.
If you’re experiencing any digestive problems, it’s important to speak to your GP to determine the underlying cause and develop an appropriate treatment plan.
IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.