Gene Variant Tied to Cognitive Decline Can Be Beneficial, Depending on Where You Live

Gene Variant Tied to Cognitive Decline Can Be Beneficial, Depending on Where You Live
Cognitive decline can be triggered by the ApoE4 gene variant, but that trigger depends on environmental factors, a new study reports. This finding supports the idea that certain diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, are influenced by the interaction between a person's genes and environment. The study, “Apolipoprotein E4 Is Associated with Improved Cognitive Function In Amazonian Forager-Horticulturalists With A High Parasite Burden,” was published in The FASEB Journal. ApoE proteins help regulate the levels of cholesterol in the blood and transport fat molecules to the brain. However, high levels of the ApoE4 variant (one of the possible versions of the ApoE gene) are associated with an increased risk of heart disease, accelerated cognitive decline during aging, and Alzheimer’s disease. People in industrialized countries, where highly caloric food is available at all times, have high levels of the ApoE4 variant and, thus, higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s and other cognitive conditions associated with aging. “For 99 percent of human evolution, we lived as hunter-gatherers in small bands, and the last 5,000-10,000 years — with plant and animal domestication and sedentary urban industrial life — is completely novel,” Ben Trumble, the study's first author, said in a news release. “I can drive to a fast-food restaurant to ‘hunt and gather’ 20,000 calories in a few minutes or go to the hospital if I’m sick, but this was not the case throughout most of human evolution.” People in tropical re
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