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BDNF: A Possible Biomarker for the Early Detection of Dementia

By Jane Kuszmaul

BDNF (Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor) is a protein with far reaching roles in our body. With functions similar to a hormone, BDNF affects systems as complex as chronic disease and mental health. What a new study uncovered is related to only one facet of BDNF; its role in brain health associated with exercise.

As we age, BDNF levels decline. This is a general trend that is greatly affected by how much you exercise, and what you eat, along with a myriad of other genetic and environmental factors. What this study found, however, was that lack of exercise and low levels of BDNF were independently associated with dementia risk in Alzheimer’s patients.

Using BDNF as a biomarker, we may be able to detect who is at highest risk of developing dementia up to ten years before the onset of the disease. Furthermore, the associations of BDNF levels and exercise may mean that exercise and diet regimes could help prevent dementia by increasing BDNF.

As of yet, BDNF is still not fully understood, but is a vital component to healthy brain function. Unfolding the intricacies of its role in chronic disease and brain health will drive forward our ability to catch and prevent these prevalent diseases.

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