Modifiable Risk Factors and Brain Positron Emission Tomography Measures of Amyloid and Tau in Nondemented Adults with Memory Complaints

David A. Merrill, Prabha Siddarth, Cyrus A. Raji, Natacha D. Emerson, Florangel Rueda, Linda M. Ercoli, Karen J. Miller, Helen Lavretsky, Laurel M. Harris, Alison C. Burggren, Susan Y. Bookheimer, Jorge R. Barrio, Gary W. Small

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46 Scopus citations


Objective Exercise and diet impact body composition, but their age-related brain effects are unclear at the molecular imaging level. To address these issues, the authors determined whether body mass index (BMI), physical activity, and diet relate to brain positron emission tomography (PET) of amyloid plaques and tau tangles using 2-(1-(6-[(2-[F-18]fluoroethyl)(methyl)amino]-2-naphthyl)ethylidene)malononitrile (FDDNP). Methods Volunteers (N = 44; mean age: 62.6 ± 10.7 years) with subjective memory impairment (N = 24) or mild cognitive impairment (MCI; N = 20) were recruited by soliciting for memory complaints. Levels of physical activity and extent of following a Mediterranean-type diet were self-reported. FDDNP-PET scans assessed plaque/tangle binding in Alzheimer disease–associated regions (frontal, parietal, medial and lateral temporal, posterior cingulate). Mixed models controlling for known covariates examined BMI, physical activity, and diet in relation to FDDNP-PET. Results MCI subjects with above normal BMI (>25) had higher FDDNP-PET binding compared with those with normal BMI (1.11(0.03) versus 1.08(0.03), ES = 1.04, t(35) = 3.3, p = 0.002). Greater physical activity was associated with lower FDDNP-PET binding in MCI subjects (1.07(0.03) versus 1.11(0.03), ES = 1.13, t(35) = −3.1, p = 0.004) but not in subjects with subjective memory impairment (1.07(0.03) versus 1.07(0.03), ES = 0.02, t(35) = −0.1, p = 0.9). Healthier diet related to lower FDDNP-PET binding, regardless of cognitive status (1.07(0.03) versus 1.09(0.02), ES = 0.72, t(35) = −2.1, p = 0.04). Conclusion These preliminary findings are consistent with a relationship between risk modifiersand brain plaque/tangle deposition in nondemented individuals and supports maintenance of normal body weight, regular physical activity, and healthy diet to protect the brain during aging. (; NCT00355498).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)729-737
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2016


  • Alzheimer disease
  • PET
  • exercise


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