When it comes to food and the quality of life there is a growing wealth of knowledge that suggests “less is more.” This mantra is supported by a new study associating high caloric intake with increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease (AD).

Richard Mayeux and colleagues from Columbia University, New York, enrolled randomly chosen healthy volunteers aged 65 or older in a study to investigate relationships between high caloric or fat intake and Alzheimer’s disease. The results are reported in this month’s Archives of Neurology. Of 980 participants originally enrolled, 242 developed Alzheimer’s disease. Those with the highest caloric and fat consumption were 1.3 - 1.5 times more likely to develop AD, although this was not statistically significant. However, when the data was adjusted for those carrying one or two copies of the ε4 variant of the apolipoprotein E (Apo E) gene, it revealed that these individuals were statistically over two-fold more likely to develop AD if their caloric intake was in the highest quartile (1870 kcal per day). A similar correlation between fat intake and AD risk was also observed.

ApoE ε4 is a well known risk factor for AD. Although the underlying reason for this is unknown, it probably involves lipid metabolism and amyloid-β deposition. For now, at least, it may be prudent for those who test positive for this variant of the gene to pay particular attention to their diet.—Tom Fagan


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Primary Papers

  1. . Caloric intake and the risk of Alzheimer disease. Arch Neurol. 2002 Aug;59(8):1258-63. PubMed.