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Increased brain volume from higher cereal and lower coffee intake: Shared genetic determinants and impacts on cognition and metabolism

By Jujiao Kang, Tianye Jia, Zeyu Jiao, Chun Shen, Chao Xie, Wei Cheng, Barbara J Sahakian, David Waxman, Jianfeng Feng

Posted 14 Oct 2020
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.10.11.20210781

It is unclear how different diets may affect human brain development and if genetic and environmental factors play a part. We investigated diet effects in the UK Biobank data from 18,879 healthy adults and discovered anti-correlated brain-wide grey matter volume (GMV)-association patterns between coffee and cereal intake, coincidence with their anti-correlated genetic constructs. The Mendelian randomisation approach further indicated a causal effect of higher coffee intake on reduced total GMV, which is likely through regulating the expression of genes responsible for synaptic development in the brain. The identified genetic factors may further affect people's lifestyle habits and body/blood fat levels through the mediation of cereal/coffee intake, and the brain-wide expression pattern of gene CPLX3, a dedicated marker of subplate neurons that regulate cortical development and plasticity, may underlie the shared GMV-association patterns among the coffee/cereal intake and cognitive functions. All the main findings were successfully replicated in the newly-released independent UK Biobank data from 16,412 healthy adults. Our findings thus revealed that high-cereal and low-coffee diets shared similar brain and genetic constructs, leading to long-term beneficial associations regarding cognitive, BMI and other metabolic measures. This study has important implications for public health, especially during the pandemic, given the poorer outcomes of COVID-19 patients with greater BMIs.

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