Brain Health Continued

News of concern:

The Week Magazine  May 15, 2015  “Health scare of the week: Air pollution shrinks the brain” (page 19).  It seems that “fine particulate matter from cars, trucks, and factories” could, over time, cause shrinkage of the brains of the people living in those polluted areas.

The research that showed this result appeared in the on-line journal Stroke:   “Long-Term Exposure to Fine Particulate Matter, Residential Proximity to Major Roads and Measures of Brain Structure.”  

Older adults who lived in urban and suburban areas where air pollution existed showed some shrinkage of their brains.  Whether this was directly from the pollution was not determined.  The researchers speculated that air pollution contributed to brain inflammation.  Those subjects who lived in areas of dense air pollution showed a 46% increased risk for “silent strokes.”  The authors concluded that even low levels of significant air pollution can create harmful effects on our brains.  To put this into perspective, the magazine ends the article with a statistic from the American Lung Association, namely, that 60% of Americans “live in areas with damaging air pollution.”

What does this mean for us?  We have known that chemicals and particulates in air pollution affect our lungs. This research indicates that they can affect other parts of our body as well.  This is one of those ideas that should be obvious, yet it often takes thoughtful research for us to expand our thinking.  Namely, whatever causes inflammation in one part of our body is likely to be affecting other parts as well.

Is there nothing we can do?Olive oil jar jpg

Good news now: ” Mediterranean Diet and Age-Related Cognitive Decline: A Randomized Clinical Trial  publishes in JAMA Internal Medicine Online on May 11, 2015  as reported in The Wall Street Journal.  In a 6 year study of over 400 older adults in Barcelona, Spain, the subjects ate either a Mediterranian diet (known for the prominence of olive oil and vegetables) with mixed nuts, a Mediterranian diet with added olive oil, or a low fat diet.

Those who ate the Mediterranean diet with added olive oil or with added nuts showed cognitive function that declined significantly less or remained stable compared to those who ate the low fat diet.

In other words, the diet that focuses on lots of and a variety of vegetables, protein, some fruit, and ample good fats (not fried foods nor trans fats) is both a healthy and potent way to reduce our risk of decline from inflammatory factors from aging and from our environment (emphasis added).  Notice, this diet is also very low in added sugars.

Contact my office if you want to evaluate which foods are optimal for you.

Bon Appetit.

About Cathie Lippman, M.D.

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