Reasearchers from the University of Bath in the UK have discovered a link between blood sugar glucose and Alzheimer's disease.
Scientists involved in the study have pinpointed a 'tipping point,' at which sugar levels become so dangerous they restrict the performance of a key enzyme - that fights brain inflammation associated with dementia.
“Excess sugar is well known to be bad for us when it comes to diabetes and obesity, but this potential link with Alzheimer's disease is yet another reason that we should be controlling our sugar intake in our diets,” said Dr Omar Kassaar from the University of Bath.
Previous research has already established a link between people with diabetes and a higher risk of Alzheimer's, so it was known that blood sugar glucose could have a part to play in the equation.
However this was the first study to successfully find a link between people who consumed large amounts of sugar and the disease.
Researchers found that glucose - the body's main source of sugar - can damage vital enzymes for brain health by the sugar bonding to the enzyme (a process called glycation.)
In this particular study, the team saw that in the early stages of Alzheimer's, glycation damages an enzyme called MIF - macrophage migration inhibitory factor.
MIF would normally be part of the body's immune response to the build up of abnormal proteins in the brain, but as the enzyme is inhibited by the sugar, it's unable to counteract their effects. This allows the disease to take hold.
"We think that because sugar damage reduces some MIF functions and completely inhibits others that this could be a tipping point that allows Alzheimer's to develop," he said.
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Approximately 50 million people worldwide suffer from Alzheimer's disease and that figure is only expected to increase to more than 125 million by 2050.
According to Dr Rob Williams, from the university's Department of Biology and Biochemistry said: “knowing this will be vital to developing a chronology of how Alzheimer's progresses.”
He added that the discovery of the ‘tipping point’ will help to “identify those at risk of Alzheimer's and lead to new treatments or ways to prevent the disease.”