High cholesterol diet can cure brain damage

High cholesterol diet can cure brain damage

A diet rich in cholesterol may help people suffering from a fatal genetic disease that damages the brain, a new study in mice has claimed.

The study, published in journal Nature Medicine, showed that a high-cholesterol diet could increase production of a fatty sheath around the mice’s nerves, which is essential for function.


Patients with Pelizaeus-Merzbacher disease (PMD), one of many leukodystrophies, struggle to produce the myelin sheath which protects nerve fibres and helps messages pass along the nerves. Without the sheath, messages do not travel down the nerve — resulting in a range of problems including movement and cognition, the BBC reported.

But, researchers who carried out the trial on mice at Max Planck Institute of Experimental Medicine in Germany found the mice who ate a high cholesterol diet “improved dramatically”.

The first tests were carried out when the mice were six weeks old, after signs of PMD had already emerged. Those fed a normal diet continued to get worse, while those fed a cholesterol-enriched diet stabilised.

“This six-week-long cholesterol treatment delayed the decline in motor co-ordination,” the scientists said.

Further tests showed that starting the diet early was more beneficial, leading the researchers to conclude that in mice “treatment should begin early in life and continue into adulthood”.


However, the researchers said the study was only in mice and it’s not known whether there would be a similar effect in people.

“Dietary cholesterol does not cure PMD, but has a striking potential to relieve defects,” the authors said.It is thought the cholesterol frees up a “traffic jam” inside cells in the brain. The disease is caused by producing too much of a protein needed in myelin, which then becomes stuck inside the cells.

It is also thought the extra cholesterol helps to free up the protein, the researchers said.

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