Brain inflammation markers associated with late-life brain volume- Alzheimer’s Society comment

A new study has found a relationship between inflammation biomarkers in the brains of 40-60 year olds and brain shrinkage in older age.

The study published today (1 November) in the American Academy of Neurology involved testing the levels of five biomarkers of inflammation in the blood, including the white blood cell count, in 1,633 people with an average age of 53.

An average of 24 years later, the participants took a memory test and had brain scans to measure the volume of several areas of the brain.

Key findings:

·         Brain cell loss was found especially in areas of the brain affected by Alzheimer’s disease

·         People with no elevated inflammatory biomarkers remembered an average of about 5.5 words in a memory test, while those with three or more elevated markers remembered an average of about five words

Dr Louise Walker, Research Officer at Alzheimer’s Society says:

“Inflammation and problems with the immune system are increasingly thought to play a role in the development of dementia.

“This study suggests a link between increased inflammation in  middle-aged people and shrinkage in areas of the brain that are known to be affected by Alzheimer’s disease. However, this study was looking only at brain shrinkage and did not look directly at the development of Alzheimer’s disease, or other types of dementia. Although these results are a helpful addition to the wider body of research around brain health and inflammation, what we need is more research to further clarify this relationship .

“While the study may not conclusively show that brain shrinkage is due to inflammation, it does highlight the importance of taking care of your cognitive health throughout your life, particularly in middle age. This includes eating a healthy balanced diet, taking regular exercise and managing conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure.”