Age Matters Clinic


Toronto Geriatric Assessment and Memory Clinic

Are Fat and Memory Loss Linked?

Elephant Head

Memory loss is a common symptom of aging. However, not all of us experience severe memory loss in older age. In fact, many older people have incredibly sharp memories. So, why does memory loss affect some more than others? Well, it may be linked to one thing: fat. According to a study by neurological scientists at the Rush University Medical Centre, along with the National Institutes of Health, fat may be actually be linked to memory loss as you age.

They found that the same protein that controls fat metabolisms in the liver is also found in the hippocampus (which is the part of the brain that controls new memories). This is thought to affect the way the brain is able to process memory and learning function. While there are many different factors linked to the onset of memory loss and dementia in the past, fat should not be overlooked. It is believes that people who have high levels of fat in their abdominal section during middle age are as much as 3.6 times more likely to experience memory loss later on in life.

In humans, the liver is the body's main organ for metabolizing fat. Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor alpha (also known as PPARalpha) helps to control the fat metabolisms in the liver. During the research study, scientists used mice to study the levels of PPARalpha in the hippocampus. They found that mice that were deficient in PPARalpha had poorer memories and were unable to learn quickly. On the other hand, mice who had injections of PPARalpah in the hippocampus were found to have improved learning and memory functions. What does this mean exactly? Men and women who have high abdominal fat levels end up with low levels of PPARalpha in the liver. Over time, they lose PPARalpha levels throughout their entire body - the brain included. This is what leads to memory loss and dementia in later life.

Dr. Kalipada Pahan, a professor of neurology at the Rush University Medical Center, stated that the study "indicates that people may suffer from memory-related problems only when they lose PPARalpha in the hippocampus." Pahan went on to discuss the need for further research on this topic. In order to fully understand the link between fat and memory loss, he feels the study will need to be taken even further. He hopes that in the future, researchers will be able to find out whether it is possible to "maintain PPARalpha in the brain in order to be resistant to memory loss"

This research still has a long way to go. Though, by having a better understanding of the fat and memory connection, steps can be taken to address this issue properly. Rather than merely understanding the link, researchers hope to one day be able to prevent the loss of PPARalpha from happening or even reverse the effects after it has occurred.

With memory loss affecting so many around the globe, this new information simply cannot be overlooked. While there is still much to be done with this research, Pahan and his team are making unique discoveries that may ultimately lead to the delay or reversal of memory loss and other related diseases.

Are you looking for more information about memory loss? Contact the Age Matters Clinic at: 647-268-0620. We understand how to improve the life of Alzheimer's and memory loss patients.