'Calorie restriction may play a role in the fight against dementia'

Limiting our calorie intake can slow down brain ageing. With this observation in mind, Prof. Georgios Keliris (UAntwerp) is conducting research into dementia. The Belgian Alzheimer Research Foundation is now supporting the scientist with a grant of 250 000 euros.

It's a striking statistic: one woman in three and one man in eight will develop dementia in some form or another. Thousands of scientists worldwide are studying the disease, for which there is still no effective treatment or cure. More research is needed, but this costs a lot of money.

'The Belgian Alzheimer Research Foundation funds promising research', says director Joost Martens. 'Fortunately, we can count on many donors. Despite the coronavirus pandemic, we were able to support Belgian scientific research for a record amount of 3.2 million euros in 2020. And only research can lead to a breakthrough in the fight against the disease.'

Slowing down ageing

The University of Antwerp has a rich tradition of research into neurodegenerative diseases. With Prof. Christine Van Broeckhoven, the university has one of the absolute pioneers in this field of research on board. Every day, hundreds of scientists in Antwerp are trying to unravel the secrets of Alzheimer's disease.

One of them is Prof. Georgios Keliris. The Belgian Alzheimer Research Foundation has awarded him a grant of 250 000 euros for his unique research design.

'My research focuses on the possible therapeutic effects of calorie restriction', says Keliris, who works at the Department of Biomedical Sciences' Bio-Imaging Lab. 'We know that restricting a person's calorie intake slows down the ageing process and prolongs their lifespan. We want to find out whether it also has a positive effect on the functioning of brain networks and on vascular reactivity.'

Longer peak performance

Specific attention will be paid to so-called caloric restriction mimetics (CRMs). Keliris: 'Lowering your calorie intake means eating a lot less, and that has its own drawbacks. However, by administering nutritional supplements or medication, we can attempt to mimic the effects of eating less, without the subject having to go hungry: this is called mimetics. We will be investigating whether this approach can counteract the 'pollution' of brain cells over the years. If your brain can operate at peak performance for longer, dementia is less likely to gain a foothold.'

Joost Martens of the Belgian Alzheimer Research Foundation: 'Every research proposal we receive is reviewed by scientists in Belgium and abroad who are also involved in neurodegenerative disease research. Prof. Georgios Keliris's research received high praise for its unique perspective, which could lead to new methods of treatment.'