Inflammation and gut-brain axis link obesity to cognitive dysfunction: plausible pharmacological interventions
Obesity prevalence is increasing steadily throughout the world's population in most countries and in parallel the prevalence of metabolic disorders including cardiovascular diseases and type 2 diabetes is also rising, but less is reported about excessive adiposity relationship with poorer cognitive performance, cognitive decline and dementia. Some human clinical studies have evidenced that obesity is related to the risk of the development of mild cognitive impairment, in the form of short-term memory and executive function deficits, as well as dementia and Alzheimer's disease. The precise mechanisms that underlie the connections between obesity and the risk of cognitive impairment are still largely unknown but potential avenues of further research include insulin resistance, the gut-brain axis, and systemic mediators and central inflammation processes. A common feature of metabolic diseases is a chronic and low-grade activation of the inflammatory system. This inflammation may eventually spread from peripheral tissue to the brain, and recent reports suggest that neuroinflammation is an important causal mechanism in cognitive decline. This inflammatory status could be triggered by changes in the gut microbiota composition. Consumption of diets high in fat and sugar influences the microbiota composition, which may lead to an imbalanced microbial population in the gut. Thus, it has recently been hypothesized that the gut microbiota could be part of a mechanistic link between the consumption of high fat and other unbalanced diets and impaired cognition, termed ‘gut-brain axis’. The present review will aim at providing an integrative analysis of the effects of obesity and unbalanced diets on cognitive performance and discusses some of the potential mechanisms involved, namely inflammation and changes in gut-brain axis. Moreover, the review aims to analyze anti-inflammatory drugs that have been tested for the treatment of cognition and obesity, recently approved anti-obesity drugs that could also have an impact on central nervous system, and bioactive food compounds that modulate gut microbiota and could have an impact through the gut-brain axis. In this era of precision nutrition medicine, it is imperative to identify the various metabolic-neurocognitive phenotypes in order to understand the processes that drive these diseases so that targeted therapeutic strategies to prevent and successfully manage these complex, multifactorial diseases could be designed and developed.