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Midlife Inflammation Associated With Brain Shrinkage in Later Life

A recent study suggests that people with blood biomarkers for inflammation in their forties and fifties may have increased brain shrinkage later in life, potentially increasing their risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.


Participants in the study included 1,633 people with an average age of 53. The researchers tested five markers of inflammation in the blood at the beginning of the study; fibrinogen, albumin, white blood cell count, von Willebrand factor, and Factor VIII. The participants were then divided into three groups based on how many of the biomarkers they had. Then, an average of 24 years later, all of the participants underwent a memory test and brain scans in order to determine the volume of several parts of the brain.


The researchers found that people with elevated levels of three or more midlife inflammation biomarkers had an average 5% lower volume in the hippocampus and other parts of the brain associated with Alzheimer’s 24 years later, when compared with participants with no elevated biomarkers. They also found that the participants with no midlife biomarkers were able to remember an average of five and a half words out of 10 on a memory test 24 years later, while those with three or more elevated markers were able to remember an average five words out of ten.


Researchers from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine led the study. It was published online ahead of print on November 1, 2017, in Neurology.


Inflammation is the body’s way of fighting off infection, but chronic inflammation can lead to many health issues such as heart attacks, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. Previous studies suggest that omega-3s, probiotics, prebiotics, and the Mediterranean diet may help lower inflammation.

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