Thanks to the medical advances and increasing awareness of health among people, it is of common knowledge that excess cholesterol in the body is bad for your health. It is known to be the root cause of clogged arteries, which can lead to massive heart attacks. But did you know that it is as bad for your brain as it is for your heart? In fact, it may just be worse.
Let us first get to know the enemy in detail - Cholesterol.
Cholesterol is a substance found naturally in blood. It is somewhat sticky and is transported to other parts of the body through lipoproteins. It is required to maintain a good overall health and only becomes a problem when its ratio in the blood increases.
External sources of cholesterol include red meat, high-fat cheese, eggs and butter. When these foods are consumed excessively, the cholesterol level in the blood increases. The excess cholesterol then notoriously builds up in the walls of the arteries in our heart, clogging them. This results in decreased blood flow to the heart, triggering a heart attack.
Now, there is a lot of hype about there being two types of cholesterols - the good and the bad. The bad cholesterol, also called the LDL, is responsible for heart diseases, whereas the good cholesterol, HDL, is responsible for carrying the bad cholesterol all the way to the liver, where it is broken down.
Previously, the effects of cholesterol were known to be on the heart. But recent studies have suggested that this monster can actually do more damage to your body. The bad cholesterol apparently finds a new target, something that seems to be more precious to us humans other than our heart - our brains!
New studies have suggested that cholesterol in the brain may act as a catalyst in the development of Alzheimer's disease.
What Is Alzheimer's Disease?
Alzheimer's is a degenerative disease, which affects the brains capacity to form or recollect memories. Other functions of the brain such as memory and thinking are also affected to an extent that daily tasks become mammoth for people suffering from it.
What Is The Connection Between Cholesterol And Alzheimer's?
There is some amount of cholesterol present naturally in our brains. But the increase in these cholesterol levels may lead to increase in the build-up of protein called amyloid-beta protein, which is the major cause of development of Alzheimer's. Excess cholesterol helps these beta proteins to stick together. They eventually form amyloid plagues, a toxic chain reaction which leads to the death of the brain cells.
Typically, the amount of amyloid beta protein in our brains is very less. Therefore, the scientists were baffled as to what lead to their increasing activity. An in-vitro research and loads of tests later done found that the thing that aggregated these proteins into clustering together and growing is the increase in cholesterol levels in the brain.
Normally, amyloid cells are very less in number and the molecules do not stick together. But these cells may stick to the lipid cell membranes of cholesterol. Therefore, when cholesterol in the brain grows, the amyloid cells have more chances of sticking together and forming a toxic chain reaction, eventually destroying the brain cells.
What Leads To Increase In Cholesterol In The Brain?
This is something that has baffled the scientists even. But the good part is that the excess cholesterol in the brain cannot be triggered by consuming a cholesterol-rich diet. This is because these fatty substances cannot enter our brains, as cholesterol cannot cross the blood-brain barrier. Therefore, scientists are now researching it as a genetic disorder, as there may be a defective gene that could trigger an increase in cholesterol in the brain.
Does This Research Help In The Treatment Of Alzheimer's?
Definitely! Though cholesterol solely cannot be responsible for the development of Alzheimer's disease, it has certainly opened up new reasons of research in the quest to find a solution for Alzhiemer's. Scientists now need to find out the ways of controlling the levels of cholesterol in the brains and also reduce the actions of the amyloid proteins.
The Best Way To Fight Alzheimer's Is Beetroot
Alzheimer's is a disease which kills the brain cells slowly as it progresses. Though this condition is irreversible presently, changes in lifestyle may certainly help prevent the onset of the disease.
Beetroots contain a compound called betanin, which is responsible to give the vegetable its distinctive bright red colour. This compound helps slow down the chemical reaction in the brain, which triggers Alzheimer's. While the complete cure may still be a long way to go, it will certainly help people who are suffering from this disease.