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Jefferson scientists discover mechanism tying obesity to Alzheimer's disease

If heart disease and diabetes aren't bad enough, now comes another reason to watch your weight. According to a study just released, packing on too many pounds can increase the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.

A team led by researchers at the Farber Institute for Neurosciences at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia and Edith Cowan University in Joondalup, Western Australia has shown that being extremely overweight or obese increases the likelihood of developing Alzheimer's. They found a strong correlation between body mass index and high levels of beta-amyloid, the sticky protein substance that builds up in the Alzheimer's brain and is thought to play a major role in destroying nerve cells and in cognitive and behavioral problems associated with the disease.

"We looked at the levels of beta-amyloid and found a relationship between obesity and circulating amyloid," says Sam E. Gandy, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Farber Institute for Neurosciences. "That's almost certainly why the risk for Alzheimer's is increased," says Dr. Gandy, who is also professor of neurology, and biochemistry and molecular biology at Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University. "Heightened levels of amyloid in the blood vessels and the brain indicate the start of the Alzheimer's process." The scientists reported their findings this month in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.

According to, Dr. Gandy, evidence has emerged over the last five years that many of the conditions that raise the risk for heart disease such as obesity, uncontrolled diabetes, hypertension and hypercholesterolemia also increase the risk for Alzheimer's. Yet exactly how such factors made an individual more likely to develop Alzheimer's remained a mystery.

Dr. Gandy, Ralph Martins, Ph.D., of Edith Cowan University and their colleagues measured body mass index and beta-amyloid levels in the blood. They also looked at several other factors associated with heart disease and diabe
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Contact: Steve Benowitz
steven.benowitz@jefferson.edu
215-955-5291
Thomas Jefferson University
29-Dec-2005


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