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Medicine Science

Diet of Fast Food and Candy May Cause Alzheimer's 224

lurking_giant sends along a Reuters report on research out of Sweden indicating that a diet rich in fat, sugar, and cholesterol could increase the risk of Alzheimer's, at least in mice. "'On examining the brains of these mice, we found a chemical change not unlike that found in the Alzheimer brain,' [said] Susanne Akterin, a researcher at the Karolinska Institutet's Alzheimer's Disease Research Center... 'We now suspect that a high intake of fat and cholesterol in combination with genetic factors... can adversely affect several brain substances, which can be a contributory factor in the development of Alzheimer's.' ... These mice showed chemical changes in their brains, indicating an abnormal build-up of the protein tau as well as signs that cholesterol in food reduced levels of another protein called Arc involved in memory storage."
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Diet of Fast Food and Candy May Cause Alzheimer's

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  • Obvious? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Max Romantschuk ( 132276 ) <max@romantschuk.fi> on Sunday November 30, 2008 @09:09AM (#25932545) Homepage

    I'm not surprised that generally mismanaging your body with bad nutrition would make it more likely to get some kind of degenerative disease... While it's nice to find hard evidence I think at least the geek population would be plain dumb so assume otherwise.

    Now if we could only get governments to have some kind of taxes on the bad stuff, and subsidize the good stuff. I'd eat better if I could afford it, quite frankly.

    • Re:Obvious? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by kestasjk ( 933987 ) * on Sunday November 30, 2008 @09:23AM (#25932609) Homepage
      Yeah fast food and sugar causes alzheimers, how blindingly obvious is that?

      Actually why is that obvious? Alzheimers is caused by the inability for neurons to clean up after themselves properly, it's not obvious at all and in fact this statistical link might not even be correct because we are currently only theorizing on the mechanism.

      Why the first two replies are commenting on the obviousness of this I have no idea.
      • It's obvious because if you only eat stuff that's really really *really* bad for you, bad things happen. In this case, they found one more bad thing that can happen. Big surprise.
        • Re:Obvious? (Score:4, Informative)

          by dgatwood ( 11270 ) on Sunday November 30, 2008 @10:29AM (#25933007) Homepage Journal

          It is somewhat naive to claim that those things are "really, really, really bad for you", though. While it is clear that these can have significant negative side effects on weight in some portion of the population if consumed in excess, the fact that this does not occur across the population universally, however, means that one could argue that the consumption of these foods by people who do not exhibit extreme weight gain from them might actually be helpful, and that not consuming energy-rich foods may be starving those people's cells. Everyone's body has different nutritional needs in terms of calories, etc., and painting with too broad a brush does more harm than good when it comes to understanding the issues involved.

          For example, by some people's standards, caffeine is really, really bad for you. The same goes for alcohol. However, we now know that both of these substances decrease the risk of stroke and heart disease. Caffeine even decreases the risk of Alzheimer's and other neurological disorders. Following conventional wisdom and common sense to answer nutritional or medical questions frequently results in getting entirely the wrong answer.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            Are you saying that, among the three diets you're discussing (the standard American diet (SAD), the broad-stroke, nutritionally recommended diet (BSD), and the genetically individually-tailored, optimal diet (GIT)) that BSD is actually the worst?

            Unless by "some portion of the population" you mean 90-95%. Anyhow, "energy rich" doesn't have to mean nutritionally poor. It doesn't even prevent a vegetarian or vegan diet. Look at the energy content of foods like peanut butter, avacadoes, honey, and olives, ju

            • Are you saying that, among the three diets you're discussing (the standard American diet (SAD), the broad-stroke, nutritionally recommended diet (BSD), and the genetically individually-tailored, optimal diet (GIT)) that BSD is actually the worst?

              BSD is dying. Netcraft confirms it.

              You SAD GIT.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Hoi Polloi ( 522990 )

          It is obvious? Really? Please tell that to my mother who is developing it after a lifetime of never eating sugar (genetic diabetes) and eating like a bird.

          People love to jump to conclusions based on personal biases and zero evidence.

          • All of these studies should posit that their results are in a baysian framework. Doing increases your risk of by times. IE: eating a high sugar diet increases your risk of getting diabetes by 20%.

            Just because you don't do something that makes you more likely to have some condition doesn't rule out the possibility of having that condition. There are many factors to getting some diseases, both genetic and enviornmental, and we don't yet have mappings of most contributors...often, we'll wave our hands an

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by vintagepc ( 1388833 )

        Stats tend to be quite useless when it comes to these things... Correlation is NOT causation!
        e.g. if I eat an orange every day and my stress level goes down, does not mean the orange is reducing my stress!
        Granted, it's possible, but it would be more reasonable to assume the brief break while I'm eating the orange is what is beneficial.

        • Re:Obvious? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by flynt ( 248848 ) on Sunday November 30, 2008 @12:55PM (#25933937)

          You have absolutely no idea what you are talking about. Statistics are, to the contrary, one of the best ways to study things such as these. Your hypothetical experiment is of course ridiculous. However, imagine that we had many subjects *randomly* assigned to eating oranges, and many subjects assigned to eating placebo oranges. They did not know which one they were eating, nor did whoever was evaluating their "stress levels". Now, what if the group assigned to eating oranges had a statistically significant lower stress level? Then our conclusion would be that oranges cause lower stress levels. Now, I did not read this experiment, but if mice were *randomly* assigned to different treatments, a causal conclusion could certainly be warranted.

        • Stats tend to be quite useless when it comes to these things... Correlation is NOT causation!

          Where exactly would you have us start? Complete guesswork? "Hey, maybe carrots cause alzheimers? Here's what we're going to do: I'm going to have a kid, and he's never going to eat carrots, and we'll see if he get's alzheimers."

          Identifying factors that increase your risk (IE those "useless" stats) of alzheimers is an essential step to understanding how the disease is caused, which is the first step towards preventing it and treating it. All we really know at this point is that nothing seems to be respon

      • I wouldn't say that it's 'obvious' that eating food that isn't really nutritious could be related to Alzheimer's. However, I would say that I wouldn't particularly be 'surprised' to learn that it might be. That said, at this point it appears that there may be a link between the two, but that there's nothing absolutely definitive.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by six025 ( 714064 )

        It certainly is not "obvious'. Also, "fast food and candy" are attributes more likely associated with recent generations. Degenerative brain diseases typically affect older people who are much less likely to have lived that kind of lifestyle to a level that is impacting significantly on their health.

        My aunty, at 72 years old, and slowly but surely is descending towards full Alzheimer's disease, yet her lifetime diet could hardly be considered "junk food". It was more like the typical diet of the working

        • by rawg ( 23000 )

          My Nana has Alzheimer's, and she has been a vegetarian for most of her life. I've ate fast food all my life and I'm perfectly healthy. 5.9 and 140-160 pounds. I think it's the whole make fast food evil thing thats been going on for years.

      • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

        by Hatta ( 162192 )

        Why the first two replies are commenting on the obviousness of this I have no idea.

        Because people like to blame the victim.

        • Why is this flamebait? It's true. Blaming the victim is a huge part of anything like this, because it "means" that you'll never get (in this case) Alzheimer's, oh no. You'd never be that stupid -- it helps grant the illusion of control.
      • by DarkOx ( 621550 )

        I agree I don't see anything of than this statistical correlation between fastfood sugar and Alzheimers that makes it obvious they should be linked. I think the parent poster was makeing the more general statement that our bodies like any other machine if not properly maintained are more likely to fail and sooner. Those failures are also more likely to defy repair as well.

      • by Reziac ( 43301 ) *

        In fact, when I read the summary, my next thought was, "Yeah, and sleep is a condition not unlike death".

        "Not unlike" is not good enough in biochemistry.

    • Re:Obvious? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Craevenwulfe ( 611318 ) on Sunday November 30, 2008 @09:29AM (#25932637)
      Yeah, Coke is WAY cheaper than tap water and mcdonalds/pizza hut cost me so much less than a chicken salad.
    • Re:Obvious? (Score:4, Informative)

      by wisty ( 1335733 ) on Sunday November 30, 2008 @09:33AM (#25932663)

      Not a great idea. A lot of US agriculture industries have a lot of "government relations" clout. See Why Does a Salad Cost More Than a Big Mac? [pcrm.org]. Then we can talk about McDonalds, KFC, and Coca Cola.

    • It's not really clear how "obvious" this is. Human bodies are, to a great extent, machines for turning stuff into the sugar glucose. Unlike ruminants, we can't handle cellulose, but most everything else that enters digestive track gets turned into glucose reasonably efficiently and is extracted into the blood stream in order to fuel the body. (OK, fats are handled a bit differently if you want to get picky)

      There is a probably a valid issue with some chemicals and compounds like salt and caffiene that get

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Bearhouse ( 1034238 )

      I'd eat better if I could afford it, quite frankly.

      Yes, fast/junk food can be astonishly cheap, but that does not make it good value, especially if it's loaded with stuff that's bad for your health, (typically far too much saturated fats, salt and sugar).

      But you can eat well, and cheap. For example, if you have no time to cook, get a slow cooker. Throw some natural rice and whatever else you fancy into it, (fish, meat, veg.), turn on & go to work. Hot meal waiting for you when you get home in evening. Ingredients will cost less than a hamburger, and

    • Just wondering, who do you think you that you can run around getting government involved in everything? Seriously, tax it? Where did that come from? Because more government is all we need, right? If people want to put crap into their bodies, so be it.
      Are you going to tax healthy restaurants too? Which menu items will you tax? I hope you won't tax the Salad+Vinegarett combos. I suppose if you support universal healthcare then you could make a case for taxing unhealthy foods. I love people that think we need

      • by BluBrick ( 1924 )

        ...I've read some papers that make a fairly convincing case that Alzheimers is simply diabetes in the brain [sciencedaily.com].

        From that link:

        (The protein, known to attack memory-forming synapses, is called an ADDL for "amyloid derived diffusible ligand.")

        Wait, WHAT? Are they saying that Alzheimer's patients are just ADDL-headed? (methinks the biochem and medico geeks might be having a lend of us with that acronym)

    • by stu72 ( 96650 )

      While I agree with the suggestion we should tax/control/ban the shite food, where does the impression that fast food is cheaper come from?

      I can't think of single comparison between meals made at home from groceries, where the per meal cost would come in below a fast food restaurant. You could certainly argue that healthy restaurants are more expensive than crap restaurants, but the real issue is eating in restaurants, not the cost of the food.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      I think it would be sufficient to eliminate the existing subsidies for "the bad stuff". Current agricultural policy rewards vast overproduction of grain, especially corn. That grain has to go somewhere, because it represents way more calories than 300M people need. Grain can be converted into other foodstuffs, like meat, dairy, and alcohol, which are generally bad for us in the quantities we Americans consume. About half the corn we produce goes to feeding animals that will eventually feed us.

      Since the

    • At least in America, if medical science can't figure out what causes a medical condition, they blame it on the patient's "bad" behavior.

      For example, we were told for years that ulcers were caused by stress so the recommended treatment was to reduce stress. Then one day, oops, it was discovered that the most common cause was Helicobacter Pylori which can be treated with antibiotics.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Hurricane78 ( 562437 )

      How is healthy food more expensive than bad food?
      Bad food is always processed food. Processing costs money. Always.

      The only reasons you pay more, are that most products that are marketed as healthy actually aren't, and those that are healthy are not marketed,
      and that healthy stuff is produced in smaller quantities and sold by smaller shops. Those companies can't afford dump prices like that.

      There is an easy rule for healthy food: Healthy = unprocessed.
      That's mostly it. And I mean really unprocessed. Like, r

      • Damnit. I meant "because that value goes mostly anti-parallel to the length of the molecules in the food".

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by sydneyfong ( 410107 )

        I'd mod you you if I had mod points.

        Except for this tiny tidbit -

        How is healthy food more expensive than bad food?
        Bad food is always processed food. Processing costs money. Always.

        Conspiracy theories aside, not even the evil corporations want you to eat crappy food if healthier food can be made as cheaply. A lot of the commercial processing is to make the food last longer for storage, so that storage and shipment costs can be lower. So that the food products can be produced in bulk. Which means less expensive.

    • Now if we could only get governments to have some kind of taxes on the bad stuff, and subsidize the good stuff. I'd eat better if I could afford it, quite frankly.

      No, it's not the government's job to be your nanny. You know you should eat healthier, go forth and do so. It's not all that expensive; it's just usually more convenient to buy a McFatburger than make a healthy salad. Buy foods that are unprocessed. Yes, there is bagged salad, but it would be cheaper and healthier to buy a head of lettuce and a couple of carrots without the preservatives. Top with olive oil and vinegar and maybe some dried herbs instead of bottled dressing.

      Buying food in it's most unprocess

  • by macraig ( 621737 ) <mark@a@craig.gmail@com> on Sunday November 30, 2008 @09:20AM (#25932591)

    That's an ancient cliche but very relevant. Eating too much rock dust would cause cancer. So too would anything else consumed in a quantity that creates an imbalance.

    • by Nefarious Wheel ( 628136 ) on Sunday November 30, 2008 @09:24AM (#25932619) Journal
      Such as refined sugar. It's amazing how hard it is to find a decent lunch in some places that isn't full of sugar. This bothers me because it did lead to a degenerative disease in me -- I'm diabetic. Didn't know any better growing up. We know better now, but there's this amazing momentum to the food industry -- will they change now that everyone knows? Without regulation? I'm not sure.
      • by macraig ( 621737 ) <mark@a@craig.gmail@com> on Sunday November 30, 2008 @09:51AM (#25932781)

        Both my parents are Type II diabetic... meaning it wasn't hereditary. Been there, seen that, hoping it skips a generation.

        That's not to say my dietary habits are perfect; I have an aggressive sweet tooth and love fatty junk like cookies, chips, and ice cream (Breyer's Natural Vanilla!), but I'm very conscious of it. I'm within 15 pounds of my ideal 150 weight, and never more than 40 past it. In my twenties I had 5% body fat and a 43 pulse (from cycling and hiking). Contrast that with my father who even in his early twenties, according to my uncle, would binge on pastries and crap, starve himself for a day or two, then go right back to eating more junk. I grew up watching him stand in the kitchen eating peanut butter mixed with honey! He was always obese, not surprisingly.

        I think another cliche applies here, in my case: "sins of the father". Trying not to repeat them....

      • You should read What if it's all been a big fat lie [nytimes.com] - first, "we" the government knew better when you were growing up, but "we" the people didn't, because the USDA, operating on completely bullshit findings from the NIH, told us to eat a lot of carbs on purpose. They knew what it would do to us, but let's face it, there's money in processed foods. Second, there is basically no difference in your body between white bread and refined sugar. So it frankly does not matter one tenth of one shit whether the sugar

      • If you live in the usa. Try to find something without corn in it. It's almost impossible. The Corn industry is subsidized by the government. Then there are tariff's on sugar imported into the usa. So really how are we supposed to eat healthy when that's not really the focus?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by JaBob ( 1194069 )
      It's sad how many peoples' lives would be better by this little principal. I grew up with a fat parent and fat siblings. I would see the way that people would treat them and didn't want to be treated the same way. Looking for some advice, I ended up getting a subscription for a men's health magazine (also for the humor and the quality of the non-health articles) and over the course of about 10 years or so that I read it, the only thing that seemed to last was 'moderation.' It's funny that it not only works
    • Well, specific links tend to be better for research. And, were the study to find the opposite, that would be quite informative too. If diet and general health did NOT contribute at all to onset of alzheimers, that could be an indication that somethign suprisingly specific was to blame, rather than a huge list of fairly generic causes.

      I'm not an expert specifically, but I'd wager that many people think/ thought there would be a genetic component in 100% of the cases of alzheimers. As far as I know, that's

  • Hogwash (Score:5, Funny)

    by vtcodger ( 957785 ) on Sunday November 30, 2008 @09:25AM (#25932621)
    Sounds like absolute hogwash to me. Now I have to head for the candy machine and get me one of those ... you know ... what are they called? ... things.
    • Re:Hogwash (Score:5, Funny)

      by Afecks ( 899057 ) on Sunday November 30, 2008 @01:42PM (#25934247)
      Whatchamacallit, the official candy bar of Alzheimer's sufferers.
    • Prevention is the best medicine! From now on my breakfast of deep fried bacon and sausage with a peanut butter and gummy bear topping will only be baked. I usually wash it down with a gallon of Mountain Dew since it compliments the bacon and sausage well. At least by not deep-frying it will remove 'fast food' from the equation, so I should be 50% safer.

  • "We now suspect that"
    Yeah...I also can suspect that a giant skids are aliens incarnations from Frodo...

    The world is already full of FUD, comeback with real prof please.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by geekmux ( 1040042 )

      The world is already full of FUD, comeback with real prof please.

      You know the difference between "we suspect" and "we conclude"? About 10 million dollars.

      Still looking forward to funding this with your hard-earned tax money?

  • by PolygamousRanchKid ( 1290638 ) on Sunday November 30, 2008 @09:37AM (#25932689)

    . . . fed on a diet of nicotine and alcohol, behaved in a way described by Dr. Akterin as "ladish", and taunted her with "tits out for the mice!"

  • This just in! (Score:5, Informative)

    by forgoil ( 104808 ) on Sunday November 30, 2008 @09:43AM (#25932727) Homepage

    Living will kill you.

    • Living will kill you.

      Are you sure? It hasn't so far.

    • True enough. But don't you find it odd that living in the wealthiest nation on Earth* kills you just as fast as living in the desperate poverty of Cuba? Despite the fact that we spend a helluvalott more trying to extend our lives?

      Previously I've argued that living in a shallow hierarchy is healthier and less stressful than living in a steep one. But to a first approximation, I think that the difference is, they don't have to eat the crap that we do.

      * 1776-2009

  • ... would suggest that it does not much good if you behave in an unbalanced manner, irrespective of the domain. If you are not balanced, you end up flat on your face, as easy as that (admittedly, it is quite hard to rediscover common sense after a treat of 'scientific values clarification').

  • by SoapBox17 ( 1020345 ) on Sunday November 30, 2008 @10:15AM (#25932901) Homepage
    Sounds like Alzheimer's is going to become the "new cancer" where everything causes Alzheimer's. Can we just fastforward to the part where they admit they don't have a clue what causes it, please?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Well, actually they do research on what causes Alzheimer's because they don't know what causes it. You see, the scheme here is, if you don't know something, you do research, and then eventually you can come to a conclusion that answers your question.

  • by PRMan ( 959735 ) on Sunday November 30, 2008 @10:26AM (#25932983)

    Before anybody runs to diet products because they shouldn't have sugar: There's plenty of anecdotal evidence... [google.com]

    • by symbolic ( 11752 )

      I wonder how many people realize that Nutrasweet (aspartame) started out as a neuro toxin being considered by the military as a candidate for chemical warfare.

  • by benj_e ( 614605 ) <walt,eis&gmail,com> on Sunday November 30, 2008 @10:27AM (#25932997) Journal

    The title states that a "Diet of Fast Food and Candy May Cause Alzheimers" and the link states that "diet rich in fat, sugar, and cholesterol could increase the risk of Alzheimer's".

    Yet in the body of the article we get this little gem: "We now suspect that a high intake of fat and cholesterol in combination with genetic factors ... can adversely affect several brain substances...".

    Seems they conveniently left out sugar in the summary.


  • a Reuters report on research out of Sweden indicating that a diet rich in fat, sugar, and cholesterol could increase the risk of Alzheimer's, at least in mice.

    The poster neglected to link to the pic of the test subject [wikimedia.org].

  • by Bazman ( 4849 )

    I thought the mice were experimenting on us?


  • I forgot to order a pizza!
  • Bad scientist! (Score:3, Informative)

    by durrr ( 1316311 ) on Sunday November 30, 2008 @10:51AM (#25933145)
    The study is quite flawed, she might as well feed them a diet "rich in rat poison" and conclude that it's quite fatal for the critters.

    There are more studies needed, focusing on the separate compounds; is a diet rich in sugar bad? Is the sugar rich diet bad if the net caloric intake is low? Is the sugar rich diets bad when combined with nutritional supplements that cover the nutritional needs that sugar doesn't provide? Is a combination diet of sugar and fat worse or better than the single sugar or single fat ones? Is HDL cholesterol a equal factor as LDL cholesterol? In what manners do the mice metabolism change in the diets? Could these changes perhaps be blocked by medication, and if yes, will it prevent alzheimers?

    The study tells us what we already know, a diet of junk food is bad for you. However, most likely a diet of junk food will kill you trough some other pathway before you develop alzheimers.
  • by brian0918 ( 638904 ) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (8190nairb)> on Sunday November 30, 2008 @11:48AM (#25933463)
    As you'll find with almost all dietary research, the conclusions are baseless. They fed the mice junk food, and focused on only a couple measures of the contents of the junk food - "fat", cholesterol, sugar. What about the other crap in junk food? What about the nutrients you DON'T find in junk food but that are crucial to life? Do any of those components (or lack thereof) correlate better? Blank out. What types of fat are bad, and what types are good? Trans fat? polyunsaturated? monounsaturated? saturated? long chain, medium chain, or short chain? WHICH TYPES OF FAT?! Blank out.

    Nope, you won't find that here. All fat is assumed to be bad. Other studies show all cholesterol to be bad, or all protein to be bad, or all carbs to be bad, without actually examining in detail the nutrient content of the food to find what component actually correlates the most with their definition of "bad".

    Until a randomized, double blind study is done, the only thing you can conclude from this is that junk food correlates to a certain degree with Alzheimer's. Nothing can be said about "fat", nor about cholesterol, nor about sugar.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      "Correlation is not causation" is probably the most overused and misapplied tag on this site. If there is a control, and there was, then it's not just a correlation. Whether the cause is actually sugar/fat or some other difference between the "bad" diet and the control diet is subject to debate, but there is a cause here, not simply a correlation. And this is rodent research, so there is no such thing as a double blind study.
      • Sorry, I should have been more specific: double-blind study on humans. As far as "correlation/causation" - I'm not sure where you picked up that I made that claim. Correlation is fine, as long as you actually do a thorough examination and try to determine what components (or missing components) provide the best correlation. Otherwise you're just dangerously misinforming the public, as this study does.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          Why is it that, whenever the media gets a hold of a single research paper, then draws wildly inaccurate or overly broad conclusions, people accuse the study of misinforming the public? From the story:

          "All in all, the results give some indication of how Alzheimer's can be prevented, but more research in this field needs to be done before proper advice can be passed on to the general public," she said.

          You wrongly claim that the researchers "fed the mice junk food." What they actually fed them was a high-f

          • What they actually fed them was a high-fat, high-sugar diet that bears some nutritional similarity to a junk food diet.

            What types of fat? What types of sugar? None of this is specified. This sort of research has been going on for decades. The only unique thing about this study is that they looked at certain genes. In the end, though, they just connected it back through correlation to the likelihood of developing Alzheimer's, without any new insight... so remind again what the point of the research was. It's not laying groundwork for future study. That groundwork has already been laid.

      • "And this is rodent research, so there is no such thing as a double blind study."

        Mister Peabody: "Surely, Neuronaut137, you've heard of the three blind mice."

  • That's not even the worst of it! I saw a report this morning that a diet of fast food and candy may cause Alzheimer's [slashdot.org].

  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aspartame_controversy [wikipedia.org]

    I drink a ton of diet tea myself, and its all about weighing risks:

    1) Eat a bunch of sugar and you get the terrible pains in old age that obesity and diabetes cause.

    2) Eat a bunch of vegetables and you get viruses from the water used to irrigate them.

    3) Eat a bunch of red meat and maybe get bowel problems.

    4) Eat a bunch of chicken and contribute to the destruction of your environment due to a cavalcade of chicken shit.

    5) Eat a bullet and dream without worry.

Nothing is finished until the paperwork is done.