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High-fat diet leads to anxiety, depression and Alzheimer's disease

[July 13, 2022: Candy Gibson, University of South Australia]

Mice fed a high-fat diet for 30 weeks were considerably more likely to develop diabetes, face cognitive impairments, and develop depression and anxiety. (CREDIT: University of South Australia)

New research shows that fatty foods may not only be adding to your waistline but also playing havoc with your brain.

An international study led by UniSA neuroscientists Professor Xin-Fu Zhou and Associate Professor Larisa Bobrovskaya has established a clear link between mice fed a high-fat diet for 30 weeks, resulting in diabetes, and a subsequent deterioration in their cognitive abilities, including developing anxiety, depression and worsening Alzheimer’s disease.


Mice with impaired cognitive function were also more likely to gain excessive weight due to poor metabolism caused by brain changes.

Researchers from Australia and China have published their findings in Metabolic Brain Disease.

UniSA neuroscientist and biochemist Associate Professor Larisa Bobrovskaya says the research adds to the growing body of evidence linking chronic obesity and diabetes with Alzheimer’s disease, predicted to reach 100 million cases by 2050.


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“Obesity and diabetes impair the central nervous system, exacerbating psychiatric disorders and cognitive decline. We demonstrated this in our study with mice,” Assoc Prof Bobrovskaya says.

In the study, mice were randomly allocated to a standard diet or a high-fat diet for 30 weeks, starting at eight weeks of age. Food intake, body weight and glucose levels were monitored at different intervals, along with glucose and insulin tolerance tests and cognitive dysfunction.

The mice on the high-fat diet gained a lot of weight, developed insulin resistance and started behaving abnormally compared to those fed a standard diet.


Genetically modified Alzheimer’s disease mice showed a significant deterioration of cognition and pathological changes in the brain while fed the high fat diet.

WD aggravates the neuronal insult post-TBI: By impacting similar molecular pathways as TBI, WD can dramatically worsen the outcomes that follow TBI. For example WD can exacerbate TBI-induced energy crisis and metabolic dysfunction leading to an exacerbated neuroinflammation. Several potential pathways appear to contribute to the increased vulnerability of the brain to the outcomes of TBI in individuals who are on a WD. These contributing pathways that range from gut dysbiosis to epigenetic modulation in addition to induction of inflammatory pathways, alteration of autophagic/oxidative flux and the alteration of the adipokine profile. All of these pathways culminate in an augmented neuronal injury. (CREDIT: The Lancet)

“Obese individuals have about a 55 per cent increased risk of developing depression, and diabetes will double that risk,” Assoc Prof Bobrovskaya says.


“Our findings underline the importance of addressing the global obesity epidemic. A combination of obesity, age and diabetes is very likely to lead to a decline in cognitive abilities, Alzheimer’s disease and other mental health disorders.”

For more science news stories check out our New Discoveries section at The Brighter Side of News.


Note: Materials provided above by University of South Australia. Content may be edited for style and length.


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