Inflammation Today Means Brain Shrinkage Tomorrow
by David Perlmutter, M.D., Board-Certified Neurologist, #1 New York Times Best-Selling Author, Fellow of the American College of Nutrition
As I have emphasized over the past decade, the fundamental mechanism that underlies neurodegenerative conditions including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and other issues like diabetes, coronary artery disease, and even cancer, is the process of inflammation. We’ve got to do everything we can in terms of our lifestyle choices to bring inflammation under control. Dietary choices, for example, that limit sugar and carbohydrates, avoid gluten and vegetable oils like corn oil and sunflower oil. Instead, flavor with oils like olive oil, avocado oil, and choose other sources of healthful fats like nuts and seeds, as well as foods that are rich in fiber—all are fundamental for reducing the risk for inflammation excess.
We know that there is a higher level of the chemicals that mediate inflammation in the blood of individuals with higher blood sugar. Again, higher blood sugar correlates with higher levels of inflammation.
Inflammation is, to a significant degree, determined by the health and diversity of gut bacteria. So issues that threaten a gut bacterial diversity, like stress, artificial sweeteners, and even various acid blocking medications, pave the way for increasing inflammation, again, the cornerstone of virtually all chronic degenerative conditions that you don’t want to get.
It doesn’t make sense to wait until you’re having an issue with one of these diseases to begin a program designed to reduce inflammation. This notion was powerfully supported in a recent study published in the Journal Neurology. In this report, researchers from multiple institutions endeavored to determine if inflammation in midlife would have any consequences for the brain later in life.
They studied a group of 1633 participants, whose average age was 53 years, by looking at their blood levels of various markers of inflammation. These five inflammatory markers were compiled and what was called the “inflammatory composite score”.
After 24 years, the participants underwent a special brain scan to measure the size of various areas of the brain. The study revealed a marked correlation between midlife elevation of inflammatory markers and reduction in size of key brain areas including the hippocampus, the memory center. The association between these inflammatory markers and developing shrinkage of the brain later in life was modified by age and race in that younger participants, as well as white participants with higher levels of inflammation markers in midlife, were more likely to show reduced brain volumes during the follow-up.
The authors concluded:
“Our prospective findings provide evidence for what may be an early contributory role of systemic inflammation in neurodegeneration and cognitive aging.”
The important take-home message here is in line with John Kennedy’s statement:
“The time to fix the roof is when the sun is shining.”
That means we should be doing everything we can to reduce inflammation, today, long before some chronic the generative condition manifests. In this study there was a clear correlation between elevation of markers of inflammation and risk for shrinkage of the brain, and who wants that? This is what preventive medicine is all about. It’s about doing the right things today to pave the way for a healthier tomorrow.