Alzheimer’s disease (AD).
It’s a diagnosis we ALL hope to avoid.
(I even have some younger patients—who are otherwise unconcerned about their health—wanting to know how to avoid that fate.)
While I have discussed some strategies at length—and have even developed a comprehensive learning tool (click here)—I love to share fresh insights.
And now, research shows yet another way to help ward off this devastating diagnosis…
A new genetic marker?
A new study suggests lean muscle mass may offer protection against AD.
(Lean mass is basically total mass, minus fat mass.)
In a huge analysis, researchers looked at data from more than 450,000 participants in the U.K. Biobank. In addition, they took two independent samples of more than 320,000 subjects with and without AD, and more than 260,000 participating in separate gene and intelligence evaluations.
Ultimately, over 500 genetic variants were linked to lean muscle mass. (I don’t think I have any of those genetics—being lean, as many of you know, has been a life-long endeavor for me!)
It turns out, these variants are reduced in patients with AD. And those with higher genetic lean mass saw a “modest but statistically robust” reduction in AD risk. Not to mention, they performed better on cognitive tasks.
Interestingly, prior research didn’t show any relationship between body mass index (BMI) and AD, which is yet another reason BMI is a flawed metric to judge health.
Now, let’s turn our focus to APOE—a genetic marker with links to AD. Researchers did not find any lean mass markers in the APOE gene region. (This makes sense, since APOE heightens risk of AD.)
Behind the scenes, there were a lot of calculations to reach these conclusions. But here are the key takeaways…
Each standard deviation increase in lean muscle mass was associated with a 12 percent reduction in AD risk. That’s huge!
And higher appendicular lean mass—which excludes smooth muscle, or involuntary muscles like our hearts—was linked to higher levels of cognitive performance.
Start moving your body
I know I harp on you all the time to exercise. But it just doesn’t click for some people.
So, let me ask you this…
Will you get up and move consistently if it means you might slash AD risk?
I guess only time will tell, as there are several modifiable risk factors to better your health and cognition. (Learn more with my online learning tool, my Alzheimer’s Prevention and Treatment Plan.)
As for me, I’m not—nor have I ever been—a “muscle man.” But I do pride myself on keeping fit and maintaining lean muscle.
This study is exciting because it proves that lean mass—which is also a surrogate marker for a healthy lifestyle—is not only associated with better cognitive function, but also with the ability for cognitive impairment to stabilize (rather than progress).
I generally recommend up to 120 minutes of weight-bearing exercise a week to maintain bone and muscle mass.
Try using resistance bands, which are a cheap, easy-to-use, convenient alternative to weights. A quick internet search will give you instructions on doing a full-body workout with them.
“Lean Muscle Mass Protective Against Alzheimer’s?” Medscape, 07/03/2023. (medscape.com/viewarticle/993969)