Unraveling the mystery: Exploring the link between women, oestrogen, and the onset of Alzheimer’s disease

New research points to a link between oestrogen and Alzheimer's disease. Source: Getty Images.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare estimates that in 2023 approximately 411,100 Australians were living with dementia including nearly 257,500 women and 153,700 men.

According to Dementia Australia, Alzheimer’s disease is a physical brain condition resulting in impaired memory, thinking and behaviour, where a person’s abilities deteriorate over time.

The prevalence of the degenerative neural disease in women has sometimes been attributed to them living longer than men but two new studies have shed light on the potential reasons why women are more susceptible to the disease.

While it’s a well known fact that women typically live longer than men, researchers have uncovered potential interactions between hormones and gut microbiota as contributing factors to Alzheimer’s disease.

In the first study conducted by researchers at the University of Chicago, experiments revealed that oestrogen, the female hormone, is linked to the amyloid beta protein clumps in the brain thought to be a hallmark of Alzheimer’s.

The study entailed disrupting the gut microbiota of female mice which were bred to develop a disease similar to Alzheimer’s. When their micobiota were disrupted with antibiotics, oestrogen levels rose. Alternatively, when oestrogen was restricted , scientists noticed fewer occurrences of the amyloid beta clumps in their brains.

Furthermore, the scientists noticed changes in gut bacteria in mice with no ovaries when they were administered oestrogen to restore their hormone levels.

Based on previous research indicating the impact of antibiotics on reducing amyloid beta deposits in male mice, it’s likely that oestrogen plays a crucial role in the underlying mechanisms of Alzheimer’s pathology.

About the findings, University of Chicago neurobiologist Sangram Sisodia said, “Oestrogen seems to be the driver of the changes we see in Alzheimer’s pathology, but we also know the microbiome is changing.”

“So, there’s this crosstalk between the two,” she added.

Additionally, the second study (conducted by the same researchers) tested an Alzheimer’s drug candidate on mice and found that it only affected male mice, suggesting a link between female biology, gut microbiome, and Alzheimer’s markers.

“We see in the current study that oestrogen levels always have an impact on amyloid deposition,” Sisodia said.

“If you take away the source of oestrogen in mice at a very early stage, amyloid deposition goes away. It’s pretty remarkable.”

While Alzheimer’s remains complex to study, these findings highlight the potential role of oestrogen and gut microbiome in the disease’s pathology.

Further research could offer insights into more effective treatments or preventive measures especially considering the impacts of hormone replacement therapy, where post menopausal women are given oestrogen to alleviate symptoms and other risks.

While there are many medical interventions to manage menopause and its symptoms, a more natural approach is increasingly being adopted by women to alleviate their discomfort.

These include strength training, eating a healthy diet, practicing mindfulness and taking natural supplements such as Actaea racemosa.

According to wellness expert Jill Healy-Quintard, this natural supplement is regarded as one of the most important herbal medicines in helping support the management of menopause transition symptoms.

Jills says, “[In fact], Ze450, a clinically proven extract of Actaea racemose, has been shown to significantly relieve a [variety] of menopause symptoms.”

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.

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