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.

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.

Ward off the common cold with exercise

There is nothing like fall in New England — the crisp air on your face, the changes in foliage and all the fun activities like apple and pumpkin picking.  Even though the calendar says the season lasts three months, the end of daylight savings in my mind signals the beginning of winter.  I think it’s the combination of the cold air and driving home in the dark that makes me feel this way.  With the change in season comes the rise in sniffles, sneezes and coughs; but before you run out for your supply of Vitamin C or the newest remedy to ward off a cold, you may want to look no further than your activity level.

According to the British Journal of Sports Medicine, individuals who reported five days or more of aerobic exercise per week compared to those who were sedentary (less than 1 day/week of activity) were 43 percent less likely to have an upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) (1).  The investigators studied 1,002 adults aged 18-85 over 12 weeks during the autumn and winter of 2008.  Individuals reported their aerobic level and used a 10-point scale to assess the level of physical fitness.

The authors took into account other factors that may have confounded the results (e.g., lifestyle, diet and stress) in their analyses.  In addition, they found that people’s perception of how fit they felt and the amount of activity performed lessened the severity of URTI and symptoms by 32-41 percent.

More intriguing is another recent paper (2) in which rats that like to exercise, were bred with similar exercise-loving rats for 11 generations.  These were compared to rats that didn’t like to run who were bred with other exercise-hating rats for 11 generations.  The super rats could not only run more distance than their coach potato cousins, but several groups of genes were up-regulated.

1).   D.C. Nieman, Henson D.A., Austin M.D et al. Upper respiratory tract infection is reduced in physically fit and active adults. Brit J Sports Med doi:10.1136/bjsm.2010.077875.

2)  R. Kivela, M. Silvennoinen, M. Lehit et al.  Gene expression centroids that link with low intrinsic exercise capacity and complex disease risk.  FESEB J 24: 4565-4574 (2010)

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.

Don’t let those treats play tricks on your body

For those of you who celebrate Halloween, you know that the holiday isn’t contained to just one day. After the trick-or-treaters are gone and the costume parades are over, now you are have to deal with the leftover candy. Even though it’s tempting to just consume all of it and start fresh when it’s gone, this doesn’t fare well for your waist line. On the other hand, moderation may not work either. The thinking might be that it won’t hurt due to the treat’s small size and fewer calories. That sounds good until you consume four or five pieces in one sitting and feel the effects.

So what should you do? For those of you who know you can moderate your intake, try to limit your consumption to just a one or two pieces per day and after a few days or a week throw away the rest. I know this sounds wasteful, but your body will thank you. Try to have the candy at the end of a meal after you’ve consumed protein so that you can blunt the rise in blood sugar as much as possible and be less apt to go back for more.

To avoid temptation, put the candy in the freezer or on a very high shelf out of reach. The bigger issue is having to deal with your kids. Put a couple pieces in their healthful lunch and pack their lunch in the morning when you are less prone to start off your day with candy. If moderation is not your style, then simply throw it all away after Halloween passes or consider giving out healthy treats.

This is the time of year when people start the slippery slope of weight gain toward the New Year; so don’t let Halloween trick you into sabotaging your efforts before the holidays even begin.

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.

Good thing I listened to Dr. Sears

By Mary Dinehart-Perry

Having recently delivered a baby, I was surprised to see the latest article published in the Journal of The American Medical Association that fish oil supplementation rich in DHA has no impact on postpartum depression or cognitive and language development in early childhood.

The study looked at approximately 2,400 Australian women who began supplementation at around 21 weeks gestation through to the birth of their children (1). Individuals were randomized into one of two groups, one getting a fish oil supplement exceptionally rich in DHA (800mg DHA and 100mg EPA) and the other vegetable oil. It has been know for years that fish oils containing both EPA and DHA have dramatic benefits for fetal outcome. However, since there is little EPA in the brain, it was assumed in the past that it was only DHA that contributed to all of these benefits. However, recent studies have demonstrated that EPA rapidly gets into the brain and is rapidly oxidized, but DHA is not (2).

Lack of awareness has led to the mistaken belief that DHA is the only omega-3 fatty acid attributed to optimal brain functioning. Needless to say, companies that market DHA-rich products work very hard to continue to foster this misconception. This explains why the clinical trials that have used only DHA to treat depression or other conditions such as ADHD have been found it to be wanting. This is because DHA is a structural omega-3 fatty acid, not an anti-inflammatory one like EPA.

As long as adequate EPA is constantly in the blood, there will be enough EPA in the brain to address any neurological problems for both the mother and the fetus. That’s why this published study with only 100 mg of EPA was providing essentially a placebo level of this critical omega-3 fatty acid (3).

Although I myself am only a data point of one, I took the same dosage of DHA described above (800mg) during my pregnancy, however, it was coupled with 1600mg EPA. I can’t help but think that it may have been the combination of EPA/DHA that helped me avoid postpartum depression.

Mary Dinehart-Perry is clinical trials director of Zone Labs.

  • Makrides M., Gibson RA, McPhee AJ, Yelland L, Quinlivan J, Ryan P and the DOMInO Investigative Team. Effect of DHA Supplementation During Pregnancy on Maternal Depression and Neurodevelopment of Young Children: A Randomized Controlled Trial. JAMA 2010; 304:1675-1683.
  • Chen CT, Liu Z, Ouellet M, Calon F, RichardP, and Bazinet RP. Rapid beta-oxidation of eicosapentaenoic acid in mouse brain. Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids 2009; 80: 157–163
  • Wojcicki JM, Heyman MB. Maternal omega-3 fatty acid supplementation and risk for perinatal maternal depression. J Matern Fetal Neonatal Med. 2010 Oct 7. [Epub ahead of print]
  • Hill AM, Buckley JD, Murphy KJ, and Howe PRC. Combining fish-oil supplements with regular aerobic exercise improves body composition and cardiovascular disease risk factors. Am J Clin Nutr 2007;85:1267–1274.

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.