Australian Study into Plasmalogens and Alzheimer's Risk
Lipids unlock opportunity for dietary supplement to reduce risk of Alzheimer’s disease
Published in Alzheimer's & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer's Association, a new study shows that changing your metabolism could reduce your genetic risk of Alzheimer’s disease. The study’s senior author, Head of the Baker Institute’s Metabolomics Lab, Professor Peter Meikle, said the findings combined what we know about genetics – the predisposition to certain diseases like Alzheimer’s that we have from birth – with the growing understanding of how our metabolism plays a role in driving disease.
“While you cannot change your genetics, you can change your metabolism through your diet. So even if you do have a high genetic risk for Alzheimer’s, our research suggests this may be reduced by increasing your levels of important lipids called plasmalogens.” Professor Meikle said.
The most common gene associated with late-onset Alzheimer's disease is called apolipoprotein E (APOE), and it has three common forms: e2, e3 and e4.
Most Australians are born with only the e3 form, which carries a neutral risk of developing Alzheimer’s. But people with an e2 form (about 15 per cent of the population) have a lower risk and those born with e4 (about 25 per cent) have a higher risk. In analysing more than 6000 human samples from Australian and US longitudinal studies, Professor Meikle’s team identified that higher levels of plasmalogens, or related lipids, were responsible for up to 30 per cent of the e2 protective effect.
“We don’t fully understand what dictates an individual’s natural plasmalogen levels, but we want to bring everyone up to that higher level, and we think that can be done through dietary supplementation,” Professor Meikle said. “Given the global scale of Alzheimer’s disease, we see a simple lipid supplement as something that could potentially help millions.”
It’s hoped that this type of oral supplementation may also help with the prevention of other common metabolic diseases such as fatty liver disease and heart attacks, where Professor Meikle’s team has also determined plasmalogens play a protective role. “Someday soon we could be getting our plasmalogen levels checked, just like a regular cholesterol check,” Professor Meikle said.