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Could Alzheimer’s disease be a maladaptation of an evolutionary survival pathway mediated by intracerebral fructose and uric acid metabolism?

Johnson R, Tolan D, Bredesen D, Nagel M, Sánchez-Lozada L, Fini M, Burtis S, Lanaspa M, Perlmutter D (2023) The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition   

Web URL: Read this and related articles on Science Direct


An important aspect of survival is to assure enough food, water, and oxygen. Here, we describe a recently discovered response that favors survival in times of scarcity, and it is initiated by either ingestion or production of fructose.

Unlike glucose, which is a source for immediate energy needs, fructose metabolism results in an orchestrated response to encourage food and water intake, reduce resting metabolism, stimulate fat and glycogen accumulation, and induce insulin resistance as a means to reduce metabolism and preserve glucose supply for the brain.

How this survival mechanism affects brain metabolism, which in a resting human amounts to 20% of the overall energy demand, is only beginning to be understood. Here, we review and extend a previous hypothesis that this survival mechanism has a major role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease and may account for many of the early features, including cerebral glucose hypometabolism, mitochondrial dysfunction, and neuroinflammation.

We propose that the pathway can be engaged in multiple ways, including diets high in sugar, high glycemic carbohydrates, and salt. In summary, we propose that Alzheimer’s disease may be the consequence of a maladaptation to an evolutionary-based survival pathway and what had served to enhance survival acutely becomes injurious when engaged for extensive periods.

Although more studies are needed on the role of fructose metabolism and its metabolite, uric acid, in Alzheimer’s disease, we suggest that both dietary and pharmacologic trials to reduce fructose exposure or block fructose metabolism should be performed to determine whether there is potential benefit in the prevention, management, or treatment of this disease.