For the study, 99 women between the ages of 70 and 79 and free of dementia in the Women`s Health and Aging Study II had their blood tested for levels of serum ceramides, a fatty compound found throughout the body that is associated with inflammation and cell death.
The participants were placed into three groups -- high, middle and low levels of ceramides. They were then followed for up to nine years. Of the 99 participants, 27 developed dementia and 18 of those were diagnosed with probable Alzheimer`s disease.
The study found that women who had the highest levels of the biomarker were 10 times more likely to develop Alzheimer`s disease than women with the lowest levels. Those with middle levels of the biomarker were nearly eight times more likely to develop the disease than those with the lowest levels.
"Our study identifies this biomarker as a potential new target for treating or preventing Alzheimer`s disease," said study author Michelle Mielke, an epidemiologist with the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.