A new study conducted by researchers at the Kings College London in the United Kingdom explored the association between making certain lifestyle changes such as alterations in diet and daily physical activity with the occurrence of memory loss in older adults.
The findings of the research suggest that making such changes can indeed maintain cognitive function and delay common effects of changes such as memory delay as the changes also impact brain aging through particular molecular pathways.
Previously, it was known that brain aging occurs in all people as they age but the extent and its effects are not similar. For instance, where one person may start experiencing a number of cognitive issues, another person of the same age group may not have any cognition-related problems at all.
The reason for the difference between these two people remains unclear to the scientific community. The new study, whose findings appear in the journal Communication Biology, now gives a potential explanation for the difference in brain aging.
The researchers suggest that the differences are fundamentally tied to the genetic variation in the “nutrient-sensing pathways”. Precisely, these are the molecular interactions that can vary and change in accordance with a person’s intake of nutrition via the daily diet.
Therefore, it is also apparent that making targeted changes in the lifestyle including adding nutritious foods in a balanced diet and exercising or engaging in any physical activity on a daily basis can help in delaying cognitive issues including memory loss.
In the study, the researchers specifically focused on the changes in neural stem cells (NSCs). These cells are found in the area of the brain called the hippocampus, which is responsible for memory in the brain.
To investigate further on NSCs and molecular pathways, the researchers looked at data at human memory, physical activity, and diet as well as data from the lab. For a more target approach, the “back-translation” method was used to study the data.
First, the researchers subcultured the neural cells and exposed them to certain chemicals that helped them age the cells and examine the expressed genes.
With the results from this process, the researchers then compared and checked the data of over two thousand people which included information on daily caloric intake, type of diet, genetic information, memory testing, eating patterns, and levels of physical activity.
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It was then discovered that two genes, known as GRB10 and ABTB1 regulate nutrient sensing and are also a part of the memory of a person, hence proving the association between memory, brain aging, and diet.
The lead author of the study, Chiara de Lucia, comments on these findings “Identifying these genes as the missing links between these three important variables could inform new approaches to help improve the aging process through targeted changes in diet and exercise and ultimately in developing new drugs,”
The ABTB1 gene was linked to cognitive abilities and more specifically to memory, while GRB10 was responsible for connecting the diet with memory.
The findings of the study can help health experts in developing specific diet plans for people, particularly the older adults group, who are at a high risk of developing memory problems.
For instance, those with a genetic variant of SIRT1 can incorporate different types of exercises in their routine. On the other hand, people with a genetic variant of GRB10 can adopt a Mediterranean style diet.
According to the senior author, Dr. Sandrine Thuret the findings show that such targeted changes can indeed help in delaying memory loss and possibly other issues related to brain aging and cognitive function.
However, it should be kept in mind that the effectiveness of doing so may vary from one person to another and is significantly dependent on an individual’s genetic makeup.
Additionally, further investigation is also required to understand the association more clearly for potential lifestyle-related treatment plans in the future.