Could a little extra fat be beneficial to your overall health? The answer may surprise you. According to a new study from the University of California, Berkeley, a little extra fat helps to reduce the risk of developing some neurodegenerative diseases such as Huntington’s, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

 Researchers examined the mitochondria, to find a new pathway that could treat diseases like Huntington’s disease. The team of scientists manipulated specific cells to mimic Huntington’s disease, which resulted in the growing fat. It turns out that this fat is required to turn on genes that protect the cells from the neurodegenerative disease. The fat increase is due to the higher production of a specific type of lipid. The brain cells are almost completely protected from the Huntington’s by this lipid. If we can manipulate this lipid pathway, we can cure Huntington’s disease.

After finding that fat can help protect people from brain disease, researchers began treating Huntington’s disease using drugs that prevented the cell from sweeping up and storing the lipid, called ceramide. This resulted in the same protective effect against neurodegenerative diseases.

Over the past several years, other studies have also produced scientific evidence that mitochondrial dysfunctions are associated with aging and age-onset protein misfolding diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s.

Andrew Dillin, the Thomas and Stacey Siebel Distinguished Chair in Stem Cell Research in UC Berkeley’s Department of Molecular and Cell Biology and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute published in Science Daily. 2016. “Can some types of fat protect us from brain disease? A newly discovered stress response pathway relies on fat molecules to mediate cellular health.” 

 

Source: Kim HE, Grant AR, Simic MS, Kohnz RA, Nomura DK, Durieux J, et al