Study looks at the link between inflammation and the spread of Alzheimer’s

Someone in America is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease every 65 seconds. The most common type of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease is a degenerative neurological illness that causes impaired cognition, memory loss and death. Right now, there is no known treatment available that can stop the progression of the disease, and there is no cure.

However, scientists are learning more about possible causes of the illness, shedding light on potential avenues for treatment in the future. According to research carried out by scientists from UMass Medical School and the University of Bonn, inflammation is linked to the spread of the disease throughout the brain.

In Alzheimer’s disease, plaques made up of beta-amyloid peptides build up in the brain. These toxic plaques cause the neurons around them to die and lead to a loss of cortical material. One of the first areas of the brain that is affected by the disease is the hippocampus, which is responsible for short-term memory.

According to UMass Medical School’s Dr. Michael T. Heneka, the spread of the amyloid plaques occurs decades before memory problems start to appear. Understanding the process better could help lead to a treatment that can target the disease at its early stage before it affects cognition adversely.

A study carried out by the Boston University School of Medicine supports the finding that treating inflammation can help prevent the disease. Researchers already knew that having the ApoE4 gene put people more at risk of developing Alzheimer’s, but it was unclear why some of those with the gene do not go on to develop the disease.

The researchers found that those with the gene who also have chronic inflammation have a far higher risk of getting Alzheimer’s. They looked at more than 3,000 people, including those who have the ApoE4 gene, and studied their levels of C-reactive protein, which is a measurement of inflammation in the body. They believe the chronic inflammation may interact with the genetic vulnerability to raise a person’s risk.

Therefore, treating chronic inflammation could help prevent this disease from destroying more minds.

Study corresponding author Wendy Qiu said: “Since many elders have chronic low-grade inflammation after suffering from common diseases like cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, pneumonia and urinary tract infection, or after having surgeries, rigorously treating chronic systemic inflammation in ApoE4 carriers could be effective for prevention of Alzheimer’s dementia.”

Foods that fight inflammation

If fighting inflammation is the key to preventing Alzheimer’s, we’ve got some great news for you: Nature offers a veritable bounty of foods that possess anti-inflammatory powers. Here’s a look at some of your best bets.

Fatty fish that is high in omega-3 fatty acids can help to reduce inflammation, so aim to increase your intake of foods like salmon, mackerel and sardines. Green tea boasts anti-inflammatory properties and has been shown to reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s as well as cancer and heart disease.

Curcumin, a compound in turmeric, is a powerful anti-inflammatory, but it’s hard to get enough through your diet so supplementation may be a good option. Berries are also a wise choice if you’re looking to stave off Alzheimer’s thanks to the anti-inflammatory anthocyanins they contain.

Of course, it’s just as important to avoid foods that cause inflammation, such as sodas and other sugar-laden foods, processed meats, and refined carbs like pastries and white bread.

See for more stories on protecting the brain.

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