New research reveals biomarkers that affect future risk of dementia, including branched-chain amino acids and cholesterol

There are many different types of diseases that can occur later in life, and they are often difficult to predict. But as the saying goes, prevention is better than cure, and it’s true even in cases like these. In the case of dementia and other neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, this is more true than most people realize. Now a team of researchers say they have found novel biomarkers that may be indicative of future dementia risk.

The research group, which comprised a number of professionals from the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio, shared the details of their finding in a study titled, “Association of branched-chain amino acids and other circulating metabolites with risk of incident dementia and Alzheimer’s disease: A prospective study in eight cohorts,” which was published recently in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association. In it, they detail how the biomarkers they detected were possibly connected with the average person’s future risk for developing dementia.

To conduct their study, the researchers took blood samples from a total of 22,623 individuals in eight separate studies performed in five countries. This included 995 people who went on to develop dementia. This is where the link between the risk of the neurodegenerative disease and the biomarkers specified by the researchers comes into play. (Related: Researchers may have found a link between Alzheimer’s disease and a common class of herbicides.)

The researchers noted that certain small molecules, called metabolites, are likely involved in later development of dementia in patients. While it’s possible to modify metabolites simply by re-configuring one’s diet and through the use of drugs, and whether or not they play a causal role in dementia still hasn’t been confirmed, the researchers haven’t ruled out the possibility completely.

From the data and information they gathered, the researchers found that there are biomarkers linked to both increased and reduced risk of dementia. To be more specific, they found that a high-density lipoprotein (HDL) as well as a VLDL lipoprotein subclass were both associated with increased dementia risk. Meanwhile, higher blood concentrations of what are referred to as branched-chain amino acids were said to be linked with lower risk of future dementia. The same can be said of another molecule called creatinine, as well as two very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL)-specific lipoprotein lipid subclasses.

According to Dr. Sudha Seshadri, the founding director of the Glenn Biggs Institute for Alzheimer’s & Neurodegenerative Diseases in San Antonio, it’s important to understand just how much of an impact their own lifestyle choices have on their mind’s condition in their later years. “I hope that people reading about this study will understand that they can take ownership of their health,” he said. “The lifestyle decisions they make, such as adopting a Mediterranean or other healthful diet, can affect these metabolites in ways we do not fully understand.”

In short, these are the molecules that are most likely linked to future development of dementia in patients – or lack thereof. The researchers are currently looking to learn as much as they can about each of them to best determine how to handle them in the future. They will continue to investigate for any connections until they can fully confirm their findings once and for all.

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