Weight, Physical Activity, Diet Play Role in Cognitive Impairment

Brain PET detected more plaques and tau tangles among subjects who were heavier and consumed poorer diets.

Imaging with PET demonstrates that body weight, physical activity, and diet may be related to amyloid plaques and tau tangles, according to a study published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.

Researchers from the David Geffen School of Medicine, and Longevity Center, at the University of California in Los Angeles performed a small study to investigate whether body mass index (BMI), physical activity, and dietary habits might have an effect on the presence of amyloid plaques and tau tangles in the brain.

Twenty-four subjects with subjective memory impairment (SMI) and 20 with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) participated in this study. The subjects self-reported their level of physical activity and if they were following a Mediterranean-type diet. All underwent FDDP-PET scans.

The results showed that those subjects with MCI who had above normal BMI (greater than 25) had higher FDDNP-PET binding compared with those with MCI with normal BMI (1.11 versus 1.08, respectively). However, this was not the same in the SMI group, where the FDDNP-PET binding was equal between above normal BMI and normal BMI (1.07 versus 1.07). The researchers also found that those subjects with a self-reported healthier diet were shown to have lower FDDNP-PET binding, regardless of cognitive status, compared with less healthy diets (1.07 versus 1.09, respectively).

“These preliminary findings are consistent with a relationship between risk modifiers and brain plaque/tangle deposition in nondemented individuals and supports maintenance of normal body weight, regular physical activity, and healthy diet to protect the brain during aging,” the researchers concluded.