Researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre in the United States, led by Mroj Alassaf, have established a relationship between obesity and neurodegenerative illnesses such as Alzheimer's disease.
High-sugar diet induces insulin resistance
The study, which used the common fruit fly, found that a high-sugar diet, a hallmark of obesity, induces insulin resistance in the brain, which lowers the ability to eliminate neuronal debris, raising the risk of neurodegeneration. The study, published in the open-access journal PLOS Biology, will impact medications to minimise the chance of acquiring neurodegenerative illnesses.
Although obesity is known to be a risk factor for neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease, exactly how one leads to the other remains a mystery
Researchers examined glial cells
The new study focused on answering this question by considering the similarity between humans and fruit flies. Having previously shown that a high-sugar diet leads to insulin resistance in the peripheral organs of flies, the researchers now turned to their brains. Specifically, they examined glial cells because microglial dysfunction is known to lead to neural degeneration
Levels of the protein PI3k indicate how much a cell can respond to insulin. The researchers found that the high-sugar diet reduced PI3k levels in glial cells, indicating insulin resistance. They also looked at the fly equivalent of microglia, called ensheathing glia, whose primary function is to remove neural debris, such as degenerating axons. They observed that these glia had low levels of the protein Draper, indicating impaired function.
Further tests revealed that artificial reduction of PI3k levels led to insulin resistance and low Draper levels in ensheathing glia. Finally, they showed that after damaging olfactory neurons, the ensheathing glia could not remove the degenerating axons in the flies on the high-sugar diet because their Draper levels did not increase
Obesity-inducing diets may raise the risk of neurodegenerative
The authors add, "Using fruit flies, the authors establish that high-sugar diets trigger insulin resistance in glia, disrupting their ability to clear neuronal debris. This study provides insight into how obesity-inducing diets potentially contribute to the increased risk of neurodegenerative