Increasing evidence gives support for the idea that extra-neuronal factors may affect brain physiology and its predisposition to neurodegenerative diseases. Epidemiological and experimental studies show that nutrition and metabolic disorders such as obesity and type 2 diabetes increase the risk of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases after midlife, while the relationship with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is uncertain, but suggests a protective effect of features of metabolic syndrome. The microbiota has recently emerged as a novel factor engaging strong interactions with neurons and glia, deeply affecting their function and behavior in these diseases. In particular, recent evidence suggested that gut microbes are involved in the seeding of prion-like proteins and their spreading to the central nervous system. Here, we present a comprehensive review of the impact of metabolism, diet and microbiota in neurodegeneration, by affecting simultaneously several aspects of health regarding energy metabolism, immune system and neuronal function. Advancing technologies may allow researchers in the future to improve investigations in these fields, allowing the buildup of population-based preventive interventions and development of targeted therapeutics to halt progressive neurologic disability.
Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; Parkinson’s disease; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; diet; dysbiosis; metabolism.