People with Alzheimer’s who get even a mild respiratory or gastrointestinal infection, or a bump or bruise are at risk for having a significant, permanent memory loss, according to a report that was published in the September 8, 2009 issue of the journal Neurology. These patients can have high levels of tumor necrosis factor—alpha (TNF-a)—a protein that is linked to inflammation and is associated with memory loss and cognitive decline.
In the study, which was done at the Clinical Neurosciences Research Division at the University of Southampton, United Kingdom, 222 Alzheimer’s patients were followed for six months. Of those, 110 people had an infection or injury that resulted in inflammation. These individuals had twice the memory loss during that period of time as the individuals who did not have an illness or injury. Researchers attribute the memory loss to inflammation. In patients whose TNF-a levels were high to begin with, an infection increased their memory loss to 10 times more than those who had low TNF-a levels.
Clive Holmes, PhD, lead researcher, said that this population should be vaccinated against the flu, and infections and injuries should be treated as soon as possible.
Tips for keeping you and your loved one healthy and safe
It’s not surprising that scientists found that brain inflammation plays a big role in the progression of Alzheimer’s disease in a recent study. The study that was published in the journal Brain, http://brain.oxfordjournals.org/, indicates that an overactive immune system can result in inflammation, and that inflammation is not the result but rather the cause of the disease.
Researchers looked at the tissue of both healthy brains and the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease. The brains of the people who had Alzheimer’s had higher levels of microglia or immune cells, which suggested brain inflammation. The molecules that regulate the number of microglia became more active as the severity of the Alzheimer’s increased, resulting in even higher levels of inflammation.
Carolyn Gregoire, Senior Health & Science Writer for the Huffington Post, wrote that “In another experiment, researchers showed that the chemical known as GW2580 reduced memory loss and behavioral problems in mice with an Alzheimer’s-like condition. “
The mice that were given a drug containing the GW2580 chemical showed fewer memory and behavioral problems that the untreated mice.
What can you do to reduce risk of inflammation?
Dr. Gomez-Nicola, lead author of the study, is hoping to work with the pharmaceutical industry to find a suitable drub that can be tested in clinical trials on people. Until then,
The findings also suggest that a diet and lifestyle focused on fighting inflammation could be important in preventing Alzheimer’s.
10 Ways to Reduce Inflammation
- Olive oil contains oleocanthal, a compound that can lower inflammation.
- Onions—sautéed, grilled or raw— are delicious and packed with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds.
- Fiber lowers C-reactive protein (CRP) a substance in the blood that’s a sign of inflammation. Foods that high in fiber include oatmeal, chia and flax seeds, bran, apples, raspberries, legumes. Foods containing carotenoids, the photochemical that provides color to foods such as carrots and watermelon, are good for lowering CRP.
- Cold-water fish such as salmon, tuna, sardines and anchovies contain omega-3 fatty acids that reduce CRP and interleukin-6, another inflammatory protein in your blood.
- Nuts including walnuts, pistachios and almonds contain monounsaturated fat, protein and fiber that help reduce inflammation.
- Fruits, especially berries, and raw and cooked vegetables, especially leafy greens, provide antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. Try to get at least 4 or 5 each day and include as many colors of the rainbow, as possible.
- Herbs and spices including turmeric, garlic, ginger, cayenne, black pepper, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, oregano, rosemary, marjoram, and sage add flavor and anti-inflammatory benefits.
- Shitake mushrooms contain ergothioneine, and other compounds that inhibit inflammation.
- Teas, including matcha green tea and tulsi contain anti-inflammatory antioxidants.
- It’s so important to get adequate sleep and to exercise on a regular basis.
Good luck and feel free to email me with comments and questions.