High cholesterol diet could help people who suffer a lethal genetic disorder known as Pelizaeus-Merzbacher disease (PMD), which damages the brain, found an early study in mice. The sufferers of PMD condition struggle to produce a fatty sheath in the region of their nerves that is crucial to perform several functions.
PMD is one of many leukodystrophies where sufferer failed to generate the required myelin sheath, which protects nerve fibres and helps message pass along the nerves. Devoid of the myelin sheath, messages fail to travel down the nerve, which causes a range of problems including movement and cognition.
But, a diet high in cholesterol could help increase production of a myelin sheath around the nerves. In order to see the impact of high cholesterol diet on production of myelin sheath, researchers from the Max Planck Institute of Experimental Medicine, in Germany, carried out a trial on mice which suffered the disease and fed them a high cholesterol diet.
The first trial was performed when mice were six week old, after signs of PMD had already appeared. Mice which were fed a normal diet continued to get worse, whereas mice which were fed a cholesterol-enriched diet remained stable. The researchers found that continuous cholesterol treatment for six weeks delayed the decline in motor co-ordination.
Further trails showed that starting the cholesterol-enriched diet early was more beneficial. The researchers concluded that cholesterol treatment should begin early in life and continue into adulthood. This was only mice study and researchers do not know if there would be a similar effect in humans or how early treatment would have to begin.
Even though dietary cholesterol does not cure PMD, but it has a potential to relieve the defects. It is believed that cholesterol loosens a jam inside the brain. The study was published in Nature Medicine.