A new study published in the journal Neurobiology of Aging finds that people with high levels of a satiety hormone have a significantly reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Using data from the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI), Iowa State University researchers looked at the levels of the satiety hormone known as cholecystokinin (CCK) in 287 people.

CCK can be found in the small intestines, where it aids absorption of fats and proteins and thus suppresses hunger; and in the hippocampus, the memory-forming region of the brain.

The findings show that individuals with higher levels of CCK had a 65 percent decreased risk of developing either mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a precursor state to Alzheimer’s disease, or Alzheimer’s disease itself.

“It will hopefully help to shed further light on how satiety hormones in the blood and brain affect brain function,” said Dr. Auriel Willette, assistant professor at Iowa State University’s Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition.

Alexandra Plagman, lead author and graduate student in nutritional science, said the researchers chose to focus on CCK because it is highly expressed in memory formation. The researchers wanted to see if there was any significance between levels of CCK and levels of memory and gray matter in the hippocampus and other important areas.

The team also measured p-tau and tau proteins, which are thought to be toxic to the brain, to see how these might influence CCK and memory. They discovered that as tau levels increased, higher CCK was no longer linked to less memory decline.

The researchers hope these new findings will encourage people to evaluate the nutritional aspects of their diet, versus just the caloric intake. Plagman already is looking at how diet impacts an individual’s CCK levels through researching fasting glucose and ketone bodies.

“By looking at the nutritional aspect, we can tell if a certain diet could prevent Alzheimer’s disease or prevent progression of the disease,” Plagman says.

Willette adds that “when and how much we eat can have some association with how good our memory is. Bottom line: what we eat and what our body does with it affects our brain.”

Source: Iowa State University