According to a cohort study compiled by researchers from several universities in the US and the Mayo Clinic, there is a potential link between inflammation and dementia. The link is not a cause/effect between the two. Participants were between 45 and 65 years old, and the initial focus of the study was on the risk of heart disease. The researchers monitored the presence of the following five substances related to inflammation by the participants:
- Factor VIII
- Von Willebrand factor
- White blood cell count
These are bodily substances typically related to inflammation connected to infection or blood clots.
Another study was conducted 24 years after the first, and it included nearly 2,000 of the original 15,000 participants. This study included an MRI scan to measure the participants’ brain volume as a part of a memory test.
Researchers reviewing these studies looked for factors (such as gender, age, and race) that might affect memory and links to dementia. The researchers found that people who had higher amounts of inflammatory substances typically had a smaller brain volume in three regions of the brain:
- Hippocampus, which helps regulate a person’s memory
- Occipital lobe, which helps with processing images
- AD signature region, which helps with higher functionality and is thought to be smaller in patients with Alzheimer’s
Participants who had higher inflammatory substances also performed worse on the associated memory test.
Based on the studies, researchers believe that constant exposure to inflammatory substances can damage the brain. Currently this is not conclusive as the size of these regions of the brain were not measured at the beginning of the original study. It is possible that these regions of the brain could have been smaller regardless of the inflammatory substances.
For more information more details about the participants and the studies, you can read the full summary at Could a Blood Test in Middle Age Predict Dementia Risk?