Western Diet Significantly Associated With Alzheimer Disease Severity

Findings from cross-sectional analyses showed that following a Western dietary pattern was associated with more severe Alzheimer disease neuropathologic variations in older adults.
The following article is part of conference coverage from the 2018 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Chicago, Illinois. Neurology Advisor’s staff will be reporting breaking news associated with research conducted by leading experts in neurology. Check back for the latest news from AAIC 2018.

CHICAGO — Findings from cross-sectional analyses suggest that following a Western dietary pattern is associated with more severe Alzheimer disease neuropathologic variations. Results were presented at the 2018 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference, July 22-26, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois.

The Western diet is known to include high consumption of red meats, processed meats, as well as fatty and fried foods. This dietary pattern has been linked to a greater risk of cognitive decline and dementia but not much is known about the neuropathological changes for these associations. Researchers from Rush University Medical Center aimed to investigate whether a westernized diet patter was related to Alzheimer disease and vascular brain changes in older adults.

The cross-sectional analyses included deceased participants from the Memory and Aging Project clinical neuropathological cohort study 2004-2017 (N=468) who lived in Chicago retirement communities and subsidized housing. Most participants were female (71.8%) and the average age at time of death was 90.68 years. Diet was evaluated each year using a food frequency questionnaire (FFQ) with the last one collected at a mean of 5.9 years before death. Participants’ brains were autopsied and analyzed for neuropathologies such as β-amyloid plaques, tau tangle density, neocortical Lewy bodies, cerebral atherosclerosis, among others.

After adjusting for gender, education, and age, the data showed as the diet was more consistent to the Westernized pattern, the more significantly it was associated with Alzheimer disease. Specifically, researchers reported increased Alzheimer disease pathology, including more neuritic plaque severity (CERAD score) (β=0.33; P =.01), higher NIA-Reagan scores (β=0.16; P =.05), and higher amyloid levels (β=0.64; =.01).

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In addition, a greater risk of arteriosclerosis was associated with higher scores of the Western diet as measured by tertile of intake (odds ratio 1.31; 95% CI, 1.04-1.64).

Based on the findings, the authors concluded that a Western dietary pattern demonstrated significant associations with more severe changes in disease neuropathology as evident by amyloid levels, neuritic plaques, and small vessel disease.

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Aggarwal N, Shneider J, Holland T, et al. Western diet is related to AD and vascular brain neuropathologies in older adults. Presented at: 2018 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference. July 22-26, 2018; Chicago, IL. Poster P1-199.