Inflammation is a natural response to an injury or infection. Get cut, bruised or come down with the flu, your body triggers a series of responses to fight infection and heal wounds. But if the response lingers on after the injury for an extended period, that is, chronic inflammation, risks of many illnesses including diabetes, asthma, and cancer can ensue.
Researchers from Johns Hopkins and The Mayo Clinic looked into possible links between chronic inflammation in middle age and cognitive decline in later age. Keenan Walker, PhD and Post-Doc fellow at Johns Hopkins and Rebecca Gottesman MD, PhD and Professor of Neurobiology at Johns Hopkins led the research effort. A population of over 12,000 individuals were given blood tests at the inception of the study to look for four specific biomarkers of inflammation and also measured the level of C-reactive protein. Participants’ cognition was tested for memory, language and executive function, with follow ups for the following 20 years.
Here’s what they learned: high measures of inflammation at midlife was associated with 7.8% worse cognition in later life. High levels of C-reactive protein at midlife was associated with an 11.6% worse cognition in later life.
What should you do? As always, review your blood work with your physician. Diet provides some protection against chronic inflammation. Leafy greens, fatty fish, nuts, berries including cherries and blueberries, citrus fruit and olive oil all have anti-inflammatory properties. So do certain spices including cinnamon, black pepper and peppers in general, ginger, garlic and turmeric. We’ve written about specific studies done on turmeric which were impressive enough that we added a turmeric supplement into our daily routine. Here’s our note on turmeric, and here is a link to this research.
Walker and Gottesman did additional work stemming from this original study, which we’ll cover in a subsequent post.
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