Newswise — Loss of memory with advanced age is a significant problem within most societies, and appears particularly severe in advanced industrialized nations. A less visible and often ignored problem comes from a food supply high in cholesterol and saturated fat, which has led to high obesity rates particularly in the United States. In a study published in the June issue of the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, researchers from the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) have linked memory loss to a diet high in saturated fat and cholesterol.
Collaboration between two laboratories at MUSC and one at Arizona State University led researchers to discover that rodents that were fed a diet high in cholesterol and saturated fat displayed impairment in working memory. This memory loss is associated with inflammation in the brain, as well as the impairment of structural proteins that affect how a nerve cell functions. As inflammation is associated with a poor diet, the failure of functions in other key organs such as the eye and the ear also could be expected.
Assuming that the same phenomenon occurs in human beings, the study suggests that as humans age, memory may be preserved and brain functions improved by restricting the consumption of cholesterol and saturated fats. As cases of obesity and obesity-related diseases have increased exponentially in the United States, and are second only to tobacco use for premature mortality and the number of health-care dollars spent, the importance of this issue is immediate.
"Effects of a Saturated Fat and High Cholesterol Diet on Memory and Hippocampal Morphology in the Middle-Aged Rat," authored by Ann-Charlotte Granholm, Heather A. Bimonte-Nelson, Alfred B. Moore, Matthew E. Nelson, Linnea R. Freeman and Kumar Sambamurti, appears in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease 14:2 (June 2008), pp. 133-145.
Founded in 1824 in Charleston, The Medical University of South Carolina is the oldest medical school in the South. Today, MUSC continues the tradition of excellence in education, research, and patient care. MUSC educates and trains more than 3,000 students and residents, and has nearly 11,000 employees, including 1,500 faculty members. As the largest non-federal employer in Charleston, the university and its affiliates have collective annual budgets in excess of $1.6 billion. MUSC operates a 750-bed medical center, which includes a nationally recognized Children's Hospital and a leading Institute of Psychiatry. For more information on academic information or clinical services, visit http://www.musc.edu or http://www.muschealth.com.