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Why a high sugar diet could be linked to Alzheimer's disease

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Scientists have found a link between sugar and the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease for the very first time. The breakthrough was made by experts at America's National Institute of Aging (NIA), who found people whose brains were worse at breaking down glucose suffered more brain plaques and tangles, two telltale signs of the illness.

While experts don't know the exact cause of the degenerative brain disease, the most common type of dementia, the effects of Alzheimer's can be seen when looking at brain tissue. Plaques, abnormal clusters of protein fragments and build up between nerve cells are all hallmarks of the condition, as are tangled, twisted strands of another protein in dead and dying nerve cells.

STORY: Discover the symptoms, treatment and diagnosis for dementia

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Scientists have found a link between sugar and Alzheimer's disease

"For some time, researchers have thought about the possible links between how the brain processes glucose and Alzheimer's," the NIA's Dr. Richard J. Hodes said. "Research such as this involves new thinking about how to investigate these connections in the intensifying search for better and more effective ways to treat or prevent Alzheimer's disease."

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The team also found people suffered more with dementia symptoms like memory loss if their brains found it hard to break down glucose to produce energy, and that those who had Alzheimer's had lower levels of the enzymes used to break down glucose and lower levels of GLUT-3, a protein that transports glucose in brain cells. Finally, they discovered the lower the levels of GLUT-3, the worse the plaques and tangles were. "These findings point to a novel mechanism that could be targeted in the development of new treatments to help the brain overcome glycolysis defects in Alzheimer's disease," NIA's Dr. Madhav Thambisetty commented.

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