We’ve known for years that eating badly can mean you develop heart disease, high blood pressure and other problems. Now we may have evidence that what you eat could mean you develop Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s as well.
Protein build up in the gut which then spreads to the brain may be the cause of both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
If you’re reading this as a fighter that might have felt like someone has snapped your head back with a solid jab. Now you might be thinking “Wait. What? I know all the punches (and kicks) to the head can give me brain damage but my guts do too? So what I eat can fry my brain as well?
Scientists tested the idea on mice by injecting them in the gut with the main protein that causes Alzheimer’s (beta-amyloid). They then tracked where in the body (if anywhere) the protein migrated to. A year later they found that the protein had migrated from the gut to the brains of the mice. Once the protein was found in the brain, scientists found the mice had short and long term memory problems. Very similar symptoms to what you would expect to see in people with Alzheimer’s. Recent research also shows that Parkinson’s starts in a very similar way (that protein is alpha-synuclein). All of a sudden we have a pattern emerging.
Beta-amyloid is made in the gut to fight dangerous bacteria and viruses that enter the digestive system; at least that’s what scientists believe. The same might apply to Alpha-synuclein. They need more evidence to really be able to stand behind this but its a strong working theory.
So what does this mean for us?
The major takeaway is we need to take extra good care of our guts aka the “second brain”. Our guts create 90% of the serotonin in your body. This means what you eat has a huge affect on your mood and how you see life. Now we’re finding out that what we eat could affect if we remember our lives at all. Good nutrition can slow down Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s so should be the number 1 priority and not just for weight management.
If you take punches for a living (or even a hobby) this is extra critical for you, Alzheimer’s is real! Those punches and kicks you’re taking to the head is making your margin for error a lot smaller. That’s the thrill of the sport though right?
My favourite fighter of all time is Muhammad Ali who ultimately lost his fight against Parkinson’s, and as I sit here I wonder one thing…
If we knew then, what we know now, could we have gotten a couple more years of the sharp, witty, poetic G.O.A.T we all fell in love with?
Of course we’ll never know for him but for ourselves, now we know better, we’d all be fools if we didn’t at least try to do better.
If you know anyone suffering from Alzheimer’s and would like to know more, contact the Alzheimer’s Society