Hormone in plants ‘reverses brain damage caused by a high-fat diet’

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A hormone in plants may reverse the brain damage caused by a high-fat diet, research suggests.

Mice who were fed a fatty diet developed inflammation of the nervous system similar to that which occurs in Alzheimer’s, according to a study by Jaume I University in Castelló de la Plana.

But when their diets were supplemented with the plant hormone abscisic acid, the damage was reversed, the Spanish research adds.

Abscisic acid is thought to reduce inflammation in the region of the brain that is responsible for storing memories. 

The researchers fed mice a high-fat diet.

They then analysed how this affected their insulin levels and the expression of genes that are associated with inflammation of the nervous system.

Results suggest rodents that consume a fatty diet have reduced expression of an insulin receptor in a region of the brain known as the hippocampus.

The hippocampus is associated with emotions and memory, particularly long-term memories.

‘We have been able to prove that the expression of proteins required for the proper functioning of insulin decreases in neuro-inflammatory situations induced by a high-fat diet,’ study author Alberto Ribes Navarro said.

But supplementing the rodents’ diets with abscisic acid reversed the inflammation.

‘With the addition of abscisic acid to the high-fat diet it is possible to recover the expression of these genes, even reaching normal levels’, Mr Ribes Navarro added.

Abscisic acid has many roles in plants, including seed development, flower growth and tolerance to harsh conditions, such as cold and drought. 

The study was published in the journal Molecular Neurobiology and led by Professor Ana María Sánchez.  

The researchers plan to investigate the common causes behind conditions like dementia and insulin resistance. 

Inflammation of the nervous system is linked to insulin resistance. 

Insulin resistance is the reduced ability of cells to respond to the hormone, which transports glucose out of the bloodstream.

It is associated with the onset of type 2 diabetes. 

Both nervous-system inflammation and insulin resistance are also linked to conditions such as dementia.

The researchers add investigating nervous-system inflammation should be a public health ‘priority’ due to the effects sugary, fatty diets have on the brain.

This ‘leads to degenerative processes which can eventually cause diseases as severe as Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias’, Professor Sánchez said.

This comes after a landmark study released today found that a breakthrough twice-a-day weight-loss drug slashes a person’s risk of type 2 diabetes by nearly a fifth.

Lorcaserin, which has been hailed as the ‘holy grail’ of weight management, controlled high blood sugar in obese and overweight patients in a study by Brigham and Women’s Hospital. 

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