USF researchers expand study to investigate link between gut health and Alzheimer's, dementia

Researchers with the University of South Florida are expanding a study to investigate the link between gut health and Alzheimer's Disease and other dementias. 

It is projected that the number of people here in Florida living with Alzheimer’s Disease will swell to 720,000 in the next three years. By the time a loved one is diagnosed with the disease or mild cognitive impairment it is too late to be reversed.

To try to stop the disease progression in the brain, researchers at USF are looking to the gut.

"This study is about investigating the role of the gut and oral microbiome, and in predicting the risk for developing the cognitive decline and dementia in the older people," explained Dr. Hariom Yadav, Director of the USF Center for Microbiome Research.

Studies show the microorganisms in your gut that make up your microbiome play a role in your body and brain health.

Thanks to a nearly $745,000 grant from the Florida Department of Health, a clinical study at USF is expanding to three other sites across the state.  The balance of the good and bad bacteria in the microbiome of people with normal cognitive function, mild cognitive impairment and dementia will be compared.

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"To really identify what the bad bugs are linked with higher progression of the dementia," Yadav said.

Investigators want to enroll 400 people over the age of 60 across the four locations. The composition of bacteria in stool and saliva samples will be analyzed in the beginning, and then annually for three to four years. Any changes over time will hopefully allow researchers to accurately predict someone’s risk of developing cognitive decline or dementia.

"That way we can actually prevent or delay the progression of the dementia or cognitive decline in those people by manipulating the diet, and the microbiome," said Yadav.

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Implementing those strategies early, before neuron degeneration in the brain starts. We are told phase two of this study would focus specifically on what foods could be used to balance the microorganisms.

For more information, or to enroll in the microbiome in aging gut and brain study, please email or call (813) 974-6281.