New Evidence Confirms Genetic Link Between Gut Health and Alzheimer’s

illustration of gut brain connection

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Key Takeaways

  • People who have certain gastrointestinal disorders may be at greater risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, as new data highlights a genetic link between the two.
  • The findings also link abnormal cholesterol levels to Alzheimer's and gut disorders.
  • These new findings could lead to earlier detection and new interventions, like using cholesterol-lowering statins to treat the conditions.

For the first time, researchers have confirmed the link between gastrointestinal disorders and the risk of developing Alzheimer's.

Gastrointestinal tract disorders—which can range from diverticulitis and irritable bowel syndrome to hemorrhoids—can leave people with uncomfortable digestive trouble and, in some cases, extreme abdominal pain.

According to new data from Australia's Edith Cowan University, there's a distinct genetic overlap between Alzheimer's disease and certain gastrointestinal disease, including: 

Interestingly, the same overlap was not seen among those with inflammatory bowel disease.

To determine the link, researchers evaluated genetic information from 400,000 people who had previously participated in cohort studies.

"Since gut disorders were implicated [in this study], it is logical to expect improved gut health may contribute to a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease,” study author Emmanuel Adewuyi PhD, post-doctoral research fellow at Edith Cowan University in Western Australia, told Verywell.

Adewuyi explained that despite the link, there is no proof of causation. In other words, it's not safe to assume that a gastrointestinal disorders will cause Alzheimer's, or vice versa.

Additionally, researchers noted abnormal cholesterol levels were associated with both Alzheimer's and gut disorders. As a result, cholesterol-lowering medications, including statins, may positively influence people with either condition.  

Your Diet Can Help Reduce Your Risk

Dietary practices can have a profound impact on our overall health. And the findings of this study highlight the importance of managing hyperlipidemia (a high amount of fat in your blood).

The authors of the paper suggest that diet may be effective in preventing and managing hyperlipidemia without the need to use medication, specifically calling out the Mediterranean diet as a dietary pattern that offers benefits both for Alzheimer’s disease and gastrointestinal disorders, including possibly preventing both from occurring.

The Mediterranean diet consists of foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, seeds, olive oil, and nuts, and with smaller quantities of foods like lean meats, dairy, and eggs. This dietary pattern is rich in antioxidants and prebiotic fiber.

What This Means For You

Finding ways to support your gut health may help reduce your risk of Alzheimer's.

2 Sources
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  1. Adewuyi EO, O'Brien EK, Nyholt DR, Porter T, Laws SM. A large-scale genome-wide cross-trait analysis reveals shared genetic architecture between Alzheimer's disease and gastrointestinal tract disorders. Commun Biol. 2022;5(1):691. doi:10.1038/s42003-022-03607-2

  2. Nagpal R, Shively CA, Register TC, Craft S, Yadav H. Gut microbiome-Mediterranean diet interactions in improving host healthF1000Res. 2019;8:699. doi:10.12688%2Ff1000research.18992.1