Could bad gut bacteria be causing Alzheimer’s?


We know that diet plays a major role in our overall health. But did you know what’s going on in your gut could actually affect your brain too?

Australian scientists are hoping to explore how harmful gut bacteria can access the brain and lead to dementia, according to a University of South Australia researcher.

“Tiny metabolites released by bad bacteria in the gut can travel to the brain, causing inflammation and triggering Alzheimer’s disease, for which there is no cure,” says Dr Ibrahim Javed, a nano bio-scientist at UniSA.

As Dr. Javed explains, “In younger people this is less likely because the blood-brain barrier is much stronger, but this weakens as people age, allowing harmful substances to damage neurons. When the microbiome in the gut ages, it also loses the ability to fight disease.”

The goal is to “identify how metabolites released by bad bacteria damage neurons – and hopefully developing new drug therapies to block them,” says Dr. Javed. This could potentially “slow down or halt the progression of Alzheimer’s.”

Another aim is looking at probiotics and supplements containing friendly bacteria. “Our research indicates that harmful gut bacteria can trigger early onset dementia as well as accelerate dementia in patients already battling the neurodegenerative disease,” Dr. Javed says. “A poor diet is one of several factors that harms gut bacteria, increasing your chances of developing dementia.”

“Bad bacteria create biofilms which cause gastrointestinal infections, chronic diseases, bowel cancer and brain diseases,” according to Dr. Javed. “Ageing, lack of exercise, exposure to pesticides and genetics also play a role, although the latter is responsible for a very small number of cases. In most cases, dementia is preventable.”

The research team is also collaborating with UniSA neuroscientist Associate Professor Larisa Bobrovskaya on a potential link between stress and Alzheimer’s disease, and whether women are more at risk.

With rates of early-onset Alzheimer’s rising, this novel approach exploring the gut-brain connection could open up new ways to prevent a disease that affects up to 55 million people worldwide and is expected to increase dramatically as populations age.

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