Is Your Liver ‘Eating’ Your Brain?
Fascinating - and scary - new research suggests your liver could be ‘eating’ your brain.
People with extra abdominal fat are three times more likely than lean individuals to develop memory loss and dementia later in life.
Now scientists say they know why. It all comes down to a competition between your liver and your hippocampus - the area of your brain that processes and stores your memories - for a protein called PPARalpha.
The strange thing is, the liver uses PPARalpha to burn belly fat, while the hippocampus uses exactly the same protein to process memory.
The study authors raised mice that were deficient in PPARalpha. Some mice had normal PPARalpha in the liver but were deficient in the brain. As expected, they showed poor memory and learning abilities.
Others had normal PPARalpha in the brain but not in the liver. Again, as expected, they had normal memory and learning skills.
However, when study researchers injected PPARalpha into the hippocampus of PPARalpha-deficient mice, both their learning and memory abilities improved dramatically.
So it seems that in people with large amounts of belly fat, their livers may have to work overtime to metabolize the fat - likely using up all the PPARalpha. In doing so, they first deplete local stores and then raid the rest of the body, including the brain, according to the new study.
This means their hippocampus become starved of PPARalpha, interfering with memory and learning processes.
Further research is clearly necessary to see how normal PPARalpha levels can be maintained in the human brain so as to prevent memory loss. This is likely to provide a new avenue of exploration in the ongoing search for a therapy for Alzheimer's disease, dementia and memory loss.
Losing any belly fat you may have is a good place to start.