Is there a link between inflammation, intelligence and death?

According to a recent study in Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, there appears to be a connection.  The study was based on data from a two-day nationwide survey conducted on 50,000 Swedish males 18-20 years of age in 1969-70 before they went into military service.  Blood samples were taken at that time to test for a general marker of inflammation known as ESR (erythrocyte sedimentation rate).  Although ESR is a very crude marker of inflammation, it was one of only a few available in the late ‘60s.  Then the blood samples were taken again 35 years later.  In their statistical analyses, the authors took into account a wide number of other variables, which may have influenced the results (socio-economic status, height, weight, blood pressure, smoking, etc.) and concluded that as inflammation (as measured by ESR) increased, there was a decline in IQ.  In addition, a higher level of inflammation at age 18–20 was significantly associated with an increased risk of mortality during a 35-year follow-up (1).  The results of the study show that even at an early age low-grade inflammation can significantly impact intelligence and premature death.

The underlying cause of chronic disease (and therefore early mortality) is increased cellular inflammation.  Likewise a drop in intelligence is usually an indication of an increase in dementia at an earlier age.  Dementia is also driven by cellular inflammation in the brain.   The most sensitive marker of cellular inflammation is the AA/EPA ratio in the blood.  Therefore it is not surprising that five years ago it was demonstrated the higher the AA/EPA ratio in the blood of elderly age-matched individuals, the greater their degree of their cognitive deficits (2).

The anti inflammatory diet was developed to reduce cellular inflammation and has been clinically validated to do exactly that (3,4).  So if you have a wish to live a longer and better life, then life-long control of cellular inflammation through the anti inflammatory diet makes perfect sense.  That’s why the anti inflammatory diet is not a diet but a way of life.

References
1.    Karlsson H, Ahlborg B, Dalman C, and Hemmingsson T.   “Association between erythrocyte sedimentation rate and IQ in Swedish males aged 18–20.” Brain, Behavior, and Immunity 24: 868–873 (2010)
2.    Conquer JA, Tierney MC, Zecevic J, Bettger WJ, and Fisher RH. “Fatty acid analysis of blood plasma of patients with Alzheimer’s disease, other types of dementia, and cognitive impairment.” Lipids 35:1305-1312 (2005)
3.    Pereira MA, Swain J, Goldfine AB, Rifai N, and Ludwig DS.  “Effects of a low glycemic-load diet on resting energy expenditure and heart disease risk factors during weight loss.” JAMA 292: 2482-2490 (2004)
4.    Johnston CS, Tjonn SL, Swan PD, White A, Hutchins H, and Sears B.  “Ketogenic low-carbohydrate diets have no metabolic advantage over nonketogenic low-carbohydrate diets.” Am J Clin Nutr 83: 1055-1061 (2006)

Nothing contained in this blog is intended to be instructional for medial diagnosis or treatment. If you have a medical concern or issue, please consult your personal physician immediately.

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About Dr. Barry Sears

Dr. Barry Sears is a leading authority on the impact of the diet on hormonal response, genetic expression, and inflammation. A former research scientist at the Boston University School of Medicine and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dr. Sears has dedicated his research efforts over the past 30 years to the study of lipids. He has published more than 30 scientific articles and holds 13 U.S. patents in the areas of intravenous drug delivery systems and hormonal regulation for the treatment of cardiovascular disease. He has also written 13 books, including the New York Times #1 best-seller "The Zone". These books have sold more than 5 million copies in the U.S. and have been translated into 22 different languages.

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