|Life Extension Update Exclusive |
Alzheimer’s-inflammation link strengthened
A study reported at the first Alzheimer's Association International Conference on Prevention of Dementia, held in Washington, DC from June 18 to 21 found that early life inflammation is associated with four times the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease than that experienced by individuals not similarly exposed.
Lead author Margaret Gatz, who is a professor of psychology at the University of Southern California College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, presented the findings of a study of 109 pairs of identical twins, one of each who had dementia, who participated in the Swedish Twin Registry. Previous research by Dr Gatz and other scientists concluded that Alzheimer’s disease has a strong genetic component. An identical twin has a significantly increased chance of developing the disease if the other twin has it.
For the current research, Dr Gatz was inspired by the work of Caleb Finch and Eileen Crimmons, whose 2004 paper published in Science proposed an association between longer life spans and a reduced incidence of childhood infectious diseases. Gatz and colleagues at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm used surveys completed by the participants in the 1960s to obtain information concerning the subjects’ health history and education. They found that stroke and not having a long formal education increased the risk of dementia but not Alzheimer’s disease. However, an early history of periodontal disease, indicating inflammation, quadrupled Alzheimer’s disease risk. Dr Gatz explained, "We're talking about gum disease, but it was measured by teeth lost or loose. It's not perfect. Given it's not perfect, it's even more striking that it's such a solid risk factor . . . If what we're indexing with periodontal disease is some kind of inflammatory burden, then it is probably speaking to general health conditions. There was in our twins quite a lot of periodontal disease, and at that time in Sweden there was a lot of poverty."
Additionally, the study failed to find a strong association between increased mental activities and education and Alzheimer’s disease risk.
The message of the current study is not necessarily that improved oral health prevents Alzheimer’s disease, but that early life inflammation may have dire effects later on. Dr Gatz added, "People can plan a life span that will alter dementia risk. And these aren't risk factors that are unique to dementia. Many of these are also risk factors for other disorders. This is good news."