GUT disorders have been linked to a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease (AD). A recent study confirmed a genetic link between the two, suggesting that people affected by gut disorders may be at higher risk of developing AD. AD, the most prevalent form of dementia, has no known cure and it is expected that the disease will affect more than 82 million people by 2030.
The link between gut disorders and AD had been suggested in previous observational studies; however, the reason for this connection was not understood yet. Research lead Emmanuel Adewuyi at the Edith Cowan University (ECU) in Perth, Australia, and his team analysed genetic data from several gut disorder and AD studies, with approximately 400,000 people in from each group. They discovered that people with gastrointestinal tract disorders and AD have genes in common.
Adewuyi said: “This improves our understanding of the causes of these conditions and identifies new targets to investigate to potentially detect the disease earlier and develop new treatments for both types of conditions.” The study did not conclude whether gut disorders cause AD or vice versa; however, results are valuable as they can provide further evidence to support the idea of a link between the functioning of the intestines, and the brain’s cognitive and emotional centres, also known as the gut–brain axis. Furthermore, the findings improve understanding of the causes of the conditions, which will enable earlier detection of the disease as well as the development of new treatments.
Further genetic analysis found other links which may play a role. Abnormal levels of cholesterol, for example, were linked to a risk of gut disorders and AD. Evidence suggested that high cholesterol can result in abnormal cholesterol metabolism in the brain. “Elevated cholesterol in the brain has been linked to brain degeneration and subsequent cognitive impairment,” stated Adewuyi. These finding suggest that statins could be used in the treatment of gut disorders and AD, as they protect the gut, modulate immunity, and help reduce inflammation. However, more studies are needed to assess whether this would be beneficial.