New Study Links Dementia to Metabolism

Dementia is a broad term that refers to the impaired ability to remember, think, or make decisions.

University of South Australia researchers have found a connection between metabolism and dementia-related brain measures.

Every three seconds, someone in the world is diagnosed with dementia. Even though dementia has no known cure, changes in the brain might take place years before dementia is identified.

Now, groundbreaking research from the Australian Centre for Precision Health at the University of South Australia has discovered a connection between metabolism and dementia-related brain measures, offering important new information about the disease.

Researchers examined data from 26,239 individuals in the UK Biobank and discovered that those with obesity-related liver stress, inflammation, or kidney stress had the greatest adverse effects in their brains.

In order to identify early risk factors for dementia, the research examined relationships between six different metabolic profiles and 39 cardiometabolic markers with measurements of brain volume, brain lesions, and iron accumulation from MRI brain scans.

Brain Scan X-Ray MRI

Every three seconds, somebody is diagnosed with dementia.

Negative MRI profiles with smaller hippocampal and grey matter volumes, higher burdens of brain lesions, and higher iron accumulation were more prevalent in those with metabolic profiles connected to obesity.

Dr. Amanda Lumsden, a researcher at UniSA, claims that the study deepens our knowledge of brain health.

“Dementia is a debilitating disease that affects more than 55 million people worldwide,” Dr. Lumsden says.

“Understanding metabolic factors and profiles associated with dementia-related brain changes can help identify early risk factors for dementia. In this research, we found that adverse neuroimaging patterns were more prevalent among people who had metabolic types related to obesity. These people also had the highest Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) –how much energy your body requires when resting in order to support its basic functions – but curiously, BMR seemed to contribute to adverse brain markers over and above the effects of obesity.”

Senior Investigator, UniSA’s Professor Elina Hyppönen says the finding presents a new avenue for understanding brain health.

“This study indicates that metabolic profiles are associated with aspects of brain health. We also found associations with many individual biomarkers which may provide clues into the processes leading to dementia,” Prof Hyppönen says.

“The human body is complex, and more work is now needed to find out exactly why and how these associations arise.”

Reference: “Metabolic profile-based subgroups can identify differences in brain volumes and brain iron deposition” by Amanda L. Lumsden, Anwar Mulugeta, Ville-Petteri Mäkinen and Elina Hyppönen, 30 August 2022, Diabetes, Obesity, and Metabolism.
DOI: 10.1111/dom.14853

The study was funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council. 

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