Omega fish oils don’t improve school children’s reading skills or memory

March 1, 2018

Science Daily/University of Birmingham

New research has found no evidence Omega-3 fish oil supplements help aid or improve the reading ability or memory function of underperforming schoolchildren.

 

In the second high-quality trial of its kind, published in PLOS ONE, the researchers found an entirely different result to an earlier study carried out in 2012, where omega-3 supplements were found to have a beneficial effect on the reading ability and working memory of school children with learning needs such as ADHD.

 

In this second study, the researchers tested children who were in the bottom quarter of ability in reading, and found that fish oil supplements did not have any or very little effect on the children's reading ability or working memory and behaviours.

 

The team from the Universities of Birmingham and Oxford tested 376 children aged 7-9 years old, learning to read, but in the bottom quarter in terms of their ability.

 

Half of the children took a daily Omega-3 fish oil supplement and the remaining children took a placebo for 16 weeks.

 

Their reading and working memories were tested before and after by their parents at home and teachers in school -- with no real differences found in the outcomes.

 

Professor Paul Montgomery, University of Birmingham, who led the research said: "We are all keen to help kids who are struggling at school and in these times of limited resources, my view is that funds should be spent on more promising interventions. The effects here, while good for a few kids, were not substantial for the many."

 

Dr Thees Spreckelsen, University of Oxford, Co-Author of the report added: "Fish oil or Omega-3 fatty acids are widely regarded as beneficial. However, the evidence on benefits for children's learning and behaviour is clearly not as strong as previously thought."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/03/180301144543.htm

Brain stimulation helps younger, not older, adults' memory

March 1, 2018

Science Daily/University of Illinois at Chicago

A study found that while the younger adults showed memory improvement from transcranial direct current stimulation, the older adults did not.

 

As people grow older their memory tend to get poorer, so finding ways to improve it is an important matter of investigation given the longer contemporary lifespans that people are experiencing.

 

Recent research has shown that stimulating the brain with a mild electric current, known as transcranial direct current stimulation, can improve memory in both younger and older adults.

 

In a study published online for a forthcoming special issue on the cognitive neuroscience of aging from the Journals of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences, researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago tested these outcomes by having younger and older sets of participants -- 48 people between the ages of 18 and 35, as well as 48 adults between the ages of 60 and 79 -- try to learn information and remember 60 face-name pairs.

 

Some of the study participants were given stimulation, and others received sham, or fake, stimulation. Their memories were tested both immediately after stimulation and again 24 hours later to assess effects on memory the following day.

 

Ultimately, the researchers found that while the younger adults showed memory improvement from stimulation, the older adults did not.

 

"On average the amount of improvement that younger adults showed from brain stimulation was a 50 percent improvement in memory," said Eric Leshikar, UIC clinical assistant professor of psychology and corresponding author of the study. "Importantly, we found these memory improvements both immediately after stimulation, as well as after 24 hours, suggesting that brain stimulation can effectively improve memory."

 

The results contradict findings from previous studies that showed that a slight electoral current through the scalp had a greater effect on cognition for older adults compared to younger adults.

 

Leshikar says future work will look at whether using different stimulation procedures can help propel older adults to experience memory improvement.

 

"It very well may be that older adults may show memory improvement from stimulation, but perhaps not under the stimulation procedures we used in this study," he said.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/03/180301094829.htm

Largest study of its kind finds alcohol use biggest risk factor for dementia

February 20, 2018

Science Daily/Centre for Addiction and Mental Health

Alcohol use disorders are the most important preventable risk factors for the onset of all types of dementia, especially early-onset dementia. This according to a nationwide observational study of over one million adults diagnosed with dementia in France.

 

This study looked specifically at the effect of alcohol use disorders, and included people who had been diagnosed with mental and behavioural disorders or chronic diseases that were attributable to chronic harmful use of alcohol.

 

Of the 57,000 cases of early-onset dementia (before the age of 65), the majority (57%) were related to chronic heavy drinking.

 

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines chronic heavy drinking as consuming more than 60 grams pure alcohol on average per day for men (4-5 Canadian standard drinks) and 40 grams (about 3 standard drinks) per day for women.

 

As a result of the strong association found in this study, the authors suggest that screening, brief interventions for heavy drinking, and treatment for alcohol use disorders should be implemented to reduce the alcohol-attributable burden of dementia.

 

"The findings indicate that heavy drinking and alcohol use disorders are the most important risk factors for dementia, and especially important for those types of dementia which start before age 65, and which lead to premature deaths," says study co-author and Director of the CAMH Institute for Mental Health Policy Research Dr. Jürgen Rehm. "Alcohol-induced brain damage and dementia are preventable, and known-effective preventive and policy measures can make a dent into premature dementia deaths."

 

Dr. Rehm points out that on average, alcohol use disorders shorten life expectancy by more than 20 years, and dementia is one of the leading causes of death for these people.

 

For early-onset dementia, there was a significant gender split. While the overall majority of dementia patients were women, almost two-thirds of all early-onset dementia patients (64.9%) were men.

 

Alcohol use disorders were also associated with all other independent risk factors for dementia onset, such as tobacco smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, lower education, depression, and hearing loss, among modifiable risk factors. It suggests that alcohol use disorders may contribute in many ways to the risk of dementia.

 

"As a geriatric psychiatrist, I frequently see the effects of alcohol use disorder on dementia, when unfortunately alcohol treatment interventions may be too late to improve cognition," says CAMH Vice-President of Research Dr. Bruce Pollock. "Screening for and reduction of problem drinking, and treatment for alcohol use disorders need to start much earlier in primary care." The authors also noted that only the most severe cases of alcohol use disorder -- ones involving hospitalization -- were included in the study. This could mean that, because of ongoing stigma regarding the reporting of alcohol-use disorders, the association between chronic heavy drinking and dementia may be even stronger.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/02/180220183954.htm

Higher risk of dementia for adults with congenital heart disease

February 20, 2018

Science Daily/Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center

A new study is believed to be the first to show a higher risk of dementia in adults who were born with heart disease. The study of more than 10,000 adult with congenital heart disease (CHD) in Denmark discovered a particularly increased risk for early dementia in middle-age adults.

 

"We've learned that CHD is a lifelong condition," says Nicolas Madsen, MD, a pediatric cardiologist at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center and senior author of the study. "Research shows that children born with heart problems are at a greater risk for one or more neurodevelopmental issues when compared to children without heart disease. We can now say that the risk for these types of problems continues well into adulthood."

 

The study is published online in Circulation, a journal of the American Heart Association.

 

Dr. Madsen and his colleagues at Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark studied 10,632 adults born between 1890 and 1982. The researchers used medical registries and a medical records review covering all Danish hospitals to identify adults with CHD diagnosed between 1963 and 2012.

 

The researchers found a 60 percent increased risk of dementia compared to the general population. The risk was 160 percent higher (2.6 times higher) when comparing those less than 65 years old.

 

Dr. Madsen says it is important to recognize that many of these adults were born during a time when medical and surgical interventions were more limited than they are today. Still, he says "we need to understand the healthcare needs and risk factors affecting the larger number of middle-age and older adults currently living with CHD."

 

CHD occurs in six to 10 of every 1,000 live births. Because these individuals are now living longer, the population of those with CHD is experiencing different neurodevelopmental issues than those previously described only in infants, children and young adults.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/02/180220143456.htm

TBI is associated with increased dementia risk for decades after injury

January 30, 2018

Science Daily/PLOS

Traumatic brain injuries increase the risk of a dementia diagnosis for more than 30 years after a trauma, though the risk of dementia decreases over time, according to a new study.

 

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) has been associated with dementia, but the details of that risk over time and in different TBI types have not been well studied. In the new study, the researchers tracked all diagnoses of dementia and TBI in Swedish nationwide databases from 1964 through 2012. In a retrospective cohort, 164,334 individuals with TBI were matched with control participants who did not have TBI; in a case-control cohort, 136,233 individuals diagnosed with dementia at follow-up were matched with control participants who did not develop dementia; and in a third cohort, the researchers studied 46,970 sibling pairs with one individual having a TBI.

 

In the first year after TBI, the risk of dementia is increased by 4- to 6-fold, the researchers found. Thereafter, the risk decreased rapidly but was still significant more than 30 years after the TBI. Overall, the risk of dementia diagnosis was increased by about 80 percent during a mean follow-up period of 15 years. The risk of dementia was higher for those with a severe TBI or multiple TBIs and was similar in men and women. Because the development of dementia can be a risk factor for accidents resulting in TBI, it's likely that in some cases, the onset of dementia preceded the TBI, so the researchers caution against making causal inferences.

 

"The findings of this study suggest an existence of a time- and dose-dependent risk of developing dementia more than 30 years after TBI," the authors say. "To our knowledge, no previous prospective study with similar power and follow-up time has been reported."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/01/180130152216.htm

Body clock disruptions occur years before memory loss in Alzheimer’s

January 29, 2018

Science Daily/Washington University in St. Louis

People with Alzheimer’s disease have disturbances in their internal body clocks that affect the sleep/wake cycle and may increase risk of developing the disorder. Researchers have found that such circadian rhythm disruptions also occur much earlier in people whose memories are intact but whose brain scans show early, preclinical evidence of Alzheimer’s.

 

The findings potentially could help doctors identify people at risk of Alzheimer's earlier than currently is possible. That's important because Alzheimer's damage can take root in the brain 15 to 20 years before clinical symptoms appear.

 

The research is published Jan. 29 in the journal JAMA Neurology.

 

"It wasn't that the people in the study were sleep-deprived," said first author Erik S. Musiek, MD, PhD, an assistant professor of neurology. "But their sleep tended to be fragmented. Sleeping for eight hours at night is very different from getting eight hours of sleep in one-hour increments during daytime naps."

 

The researchers also conducted a separate study in mice, to be published Jan. 30 in The Journal of Experimental Medicine, showing that similar circadian disruptions accelerate the development of amyloid plaques in the brain, which are linked to Alzheimer's.

 

Previous studies at Washington University, conducted in people and in animals, have found that levels of amyloid fluctuate in predictable ways during the day and night. Amyloid levels decrease during sleep, and several studies have shown that levels increase when sleep is disrupted or when people don't get enough deep sleep, according to research by senior author, Yo-El Ju, MD.

 

"In this new study, we found that people with preclinical Alzheimer's disease had more fragmentation in their circadian activity patterns, with more periods of inactivity or sleep during the day and more periods of activity at night," said Ju, an assistant professor of neurology.

 

The researchers tracked circadian rhythms in 189 cognitively normal, older adults with an average age of 66. Some had positron emission tomography (PET) scans to look for Alzheimer's-related amyloid plaques in their brains. Others had their cerebrospinal fluid tested for Alzheimer's-related proteins. And some had both scans and spinal fluid testing.

 

Of the participants, 139 had no evidence of the amyloid protein that signifies preclinical Alzheimer's. Most had normal sleep/wake cycles, although several had circadian disruptions that were linked to advanced age, sleep apnea or other causes.

 

But among the other 50 subjects -- who either had abnormal brain scans or abnormal cerebrospinal fluid -- all experienced significant disruptions in their internal body clocks, determined by how much rest they got at night and how active they were during the day. Disruptions in the sleep/wake cycle remained even after the researchers statistically controlled for sleep apnea, age and other factors.

 

The study subjects, from Washington University's Knight Alzheimer's Disease Research Center, all wore devices similar to exercise trackers for one to two weeks. Each also completed a detailed sleep diary every morning.

 

By tracking activity during the day and night, the researchers could tell how scattered rest and activity were throughout 24-hour periods. Subjects who experienced short spurts of activity and rest during the day and night were more likely to have evidence of amyloid buildup in their brains.

 

These findings in people reinforce the mouse research from Musiek's lab. In that study, working with first author Geraldine J. Kress, PhD, an assistant professor of neurology, Musiek studied circadian rhythm disruptions in a mouse model of Alzheimer's. To disrupt the animals' circadian rhythms, his team disabled genes that control the circadian clock.

 

"Over two months, mice with disrupted circadian rhythms developed considerably more amyloid plaques than mice with normal rhythms," Musiek said. "The mice also had changes in the normal, daily rhythms of amyloid protein in the brain. It's the first data demonstrating that the disruption of circadian rhythms could be accelerating the deposition of plaques."

 

Both Musiek and Ju said it's too early to answer the chicken-and-egg question of whether disrupted circadian rhythms put people at risk for Alzheimer's disease or whether Alzheimer's-related changes in the brain disrupt circadian rhythms.

 

"At the very least, these disruptions in circadian rhythms may serve as a biomarker for preclinical disease," said Ju. "We want to bring back these subjects in the future to learn more about whether their sleep and circadian rhythm problems lead to increased Alzheimer's risk or whether the Alzheimer's disease brain changes cause sleep/wake cycle and circadian problems."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/01/180129150033.htm

Aerobic exercise may mildly delay, slightly improve Alzheimer's symptoms

January 26, 2018

Science Daily/American Geriatrics Society

Geriatrics experts have suggested that exercising can improve brain health in older adults. However, not all studies of exercise and older adults have proven the benefits of exercise. A team of researchers designed a study to learn whether exercise could delay or improve AD symptoms. They reviewed 19 studies that examined the effect of an exercise training program on cognitive function in older adults who were at risk for or diagnosed with AD.

 

Geriatrics experts have suggested that exercising can improve brain health in older adults. The World Health Organization (WHO) has recommendations for how much older adults should exercise. They suggest that older adults perform 150 minutes a week of moderate exercise (such as brisk walking), 75 minutes a week of vigorous aerobic training, or a combination of the two types. The WHO also recommends older adults perform muscle-strengthening exercises on at least two or more days a week.

 

However, not all studies of exercise and older adults have proven the benefits of exercise. We don't know for sure whether exercise slows mental decline or improves older adults' ability to think and make decisions.

 

A team of researchers designed a study to learn whether exercise could delay or improve AD symptoms. They reviewed 19 studies that examined the effect of an exercise training program on cognitive function in older adults who were at risk for or diagnosed with AD. The studies included 1,145 older adults, most of whom were in their mid-to late 70s. Of the participants, 65 percent were at risk for AD and 35 percent had been diagnosed with AD.

 

The researchers published their findings in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

 

As the researchers examined the studies, they discovered that older adults who did aerobic exercise by itself experienced a three times greater level of improvement in cognitive function than those who participated in combined aerobic training and strength training exercises. The researchers also confirmed that the amount of exercise WHO recommends for older adults was reinforced by the studies they examined.

 

Finally, the researchers found that older adults in the no-exercise control groups in the studies faced declines in cognitive function. Meanwhile, the older adults who exercised showed small improvements in cognitive function no matter what type of exercise they did.

 

The research team concluded that this study may be the first to show that for older adults who are at risk for or who have AD, aerobic exercise may be more effective than other types of exercise in preserving the ability to think and make decisions.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/01/180126130325.htm

Curcumin improves memory and mood

Twice-daily supplements boosted cognitive power over 18 months

January 23, 2018

Science Daily/University of California - Los Angeles

Daily consumption of a certain form of curcumin -- the substance that gives Indian curry its bright color -- improved memory and mood in people with mild, age-related memory loss.

 

Lovers of Indian food, give yourselves a second helping: Daily consumption of a certain form of curcumin -- the substance that gives Indian curry its bright color -- improved memory and mood in people with mild, age-related memory loss, according to the results of a study conducted by UCLA researchers.

 

The research, published online Jan. 19 in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, examined the effects of an easily absorbed curcumin supplement on memory performance in people without dementia, as well as curcumin's potential impact on the microscopic plaques and tangles in the brains of people with Alzheimer's disease.

 

Found in turmeric, curcumin has previously been shown to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties in lab studies. It also has been suggested as a possible reason that senior citizens in India, where curcumin is a dietary staple, have a lower prevalence of Alzheimer's disease and better cognitive performance.

 

"Exactly how curcumin exerts its effects is not certain, but it may be due to its ability to reduce brain inflammation, which has been linked to both Alzheimer's disease and major depression," said Dr. Gary Small, director of geriatric psychiatry at UCLA's Longevity Center and of the geriatric psychiatry division at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA, and the study's first author.

 

The double-blind, placebo-controlled study involved 40 adults between the ages of 50 and 90 years who had mild memory complaints. Participants were randomly assigned to receive either a placebo or 90 milligrams of curcumin twice daily for 18 months.

 

All 40 subjects received standardized cognitive assessments at the start of the study and at six-month intervals, and monitoring of curcumin levels in their blood at the start of the study and after 18 months. Thirty of the volunteers underwent positron emission tomography, or PET scans, to determine the levels of amyloid and tau in their brains at the start of the study and after 18 months.

 

The people who took curcumin experienced significant improvements in their memory and attention abilities, while the subjects who received placebo did not, Small said. In memory tests, the people taking curcumin improved by 28 percent over the 18 months. Those taking curcumin also had mild improvements in mood, and their brain PET scans showed significantly less amyloid and tau signals in the amygdala and hypothalamus than those who took placebos.

 

The amygdala and hypothalamus are regions of the brain that control several memory and emotional functions.

 

Four people taking curcumin, and two taking placebos, experienced mild side effects such as abdominal pain and nausea.

 

The researchers plan to conduct a follow-up study with a larger number of people. That study will include some people with mild depression so the scientists can explore whether curcumin also has antidepressant effects. The larger sample also would allow them to analyze whether curcumin's memory-enhancing effects vary according to people's genetic risk for Alzheimer's, their age or the extent of their cognitive problems.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/01/180123101908.htm

Can training improve memory, thinking abilities in older adults with cognitive impairment?

January 16, 2018

Science Daily/American Geriatrics Society

A new, first-of-its-kind study was designed to assess whether cognitive training, a medication-free treatment, could improve MCI. Studies show that activities that stimulate your brain, such as cognitive training, can protect against a decline in your mental abilities. Even older adults who have MCI can still learn and use new mental skills.

 

Cognition is the ability to think and make decisions. Medication-free treatments that maintain cognitive health as we age are attracting the attention of medical experts. Maintaining the ability to think clearly and make decisions is crucial to older adults' well-being and vitality.

 

Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is a condition that affects people who are in the early stages of dementia or Alzheimer's disease. People with MCI may have mild memory loss or other difficulties completing tasks that involve cognitive abilities. MCI may eventually develop into dementia or Alzheimer's disease. Depression and anxiety also can accompany MCI. Having these conditions can increase the risk of mental decline as people age.

 

A new, first-of-its-kind study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society by scientists from research centers in Montreal and Quebec City, Canada. They designed a study to learn whether cognitive training, a medication-free treatment, could improve MCI. Studies show that activities that stimulate your brain, such as cognitive training, can protect against a decline in your mental abilities. Even older adults who have MCI can still learn and use new mental skills.

 

For their study, researchers recruited 145 older adults around the age of 72 from Canadian memory clinics. The participants had been diagnosed with MCI, and were assigned to one of three groups. Each group included four or five participants, and met for eight weekly sessions for 120 minutes.

 

The three groups were:

 

·     Cognitive training group. Members of this group participated in the MEMO program (MEMO stands for a French phrase that translates to "training method for optimal memory"). They received special training to improve their memory and attention span.

·     Psycho-social group. Participants in this group were encouraged to improve their general well-being. They learned to focus on the positive aspects of their lives and find ways to increase positive situations.

·     Control group. Participants had no contact with researchers and didn't follow a program.

 

During the time the training sessions took place, 128 of the participants completed the project. After six months, 104 completed all the sessions they were assigned.

 

People in the MEMO group increased their memory scores by 35 to 40 percent, said Sylvie Belleville, PhD, a senior author of the study. "Most importantly, they maintained their scores over a six-month period."

 

What's more, the improvement was the largest for older adults with "delayed recall." This means memory for words measured just 10 minutes after people have studied them. Because delayed memory is one of the earliest signs of Alzheimer's disease, this was a key finding.

 

Those who participated in the MEMO group said they used the training they learned in their daily lives. The training gave them different ways to remember things. For example, they learned to use visual images to remember names of new people, and to use associations to remember shopping lists. These lessons allowed them to continue maintaining their memory improvements after the study ended.

 

The people in the psycho-social group and the control group didn't experience memory benefits or improvement in their mood.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/01/180116144246.htm

Blueberry vinegar improves memory in mice with amnesia

December 20, 2017

Science Daily/American Chemical Society

Dementia affects millions of people worldwide, robbing them of their ability to think, remember and live as they once did. In the search for new ways to fight cognitive decline, scientists report that blueberry vinegar might offer some help. They found that the fermented product could restore cognitive function in mice.

 

Recent studies have shown that the brains of people with Alzheimer's disease, the most common form of dementia, have lower levels of the signaling compound acetylcholine and its receptors. Research has also demonstrated that blocking acetylcholine receptors disrupts learning and memory. Drugs to stop the breakdown of acetylcholine have been developed to fight dementia, but they often don't last long in the body and can be toxic to the liver. Natural extracts could be a safer treatment option, and some animal studies suggest that these extracts can improve cognition. Additionally, fermentation can boost the bioactivity of some natural products. So Beong-Ou Lim and colleagues wanted to test whether vinegar made from blueberries, which are packed with a wide range of active compounds, might help prevent cognitive decline.

 

To carry out their experiment, the researchers administered blueberry vinegar to mice with induced amnesia. Measurements of molecules in their brains showed that the vinegar reduced the breakdown of acetylcholine and boosted levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, a protein associated with maintaining and creating healthy neurons. To test how the treatment affected cognition, the researchers analyzed the animals' performance in mazes and an avoidance test, in which the mice would receive a low-intensity shock in one of two chambers. The treated rodents showed improved performance in both of these tests, suggesting that the fermented product improved short-term memory. Thus, although further testing is needed, the researchers say that blueberry vinegar could potentially be a promising food to help treat amnesia and cognitive decline related to aging.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/12/171220091735.htm

Canola oil linked to worsened memory and learning ability in Alzheimer's

December 7, 2017

Science Daily/Temple University Health System

Canola oil is one of the most widely consumed vegetable oils, yet little is known about its health effects. Now, a study links canola oil consumption in the diet with worsened memory, worsened learning ability and weight gain in mice which model Alzheimer's disease. It's the first study to suggest that canola oil is more harmful than healthful for the brain.

 

"Canola oil is appealing because it is less expensive than other vegetable oils, and it is advertised as being healthy," explained Domenico Praticò, MD, Professor in the Departments of Pharmacology and Microbiology and Director of the Alzheimer's Center at LKSOM, as well as senior investigator on the study. "Very few studies, however, have examined that claim, especially in terms of the brain."

 

Curious about how canola oil affects brain function, Dr. Praticò and Elisabetta Lauretti, a graduate student in Dr. Pratico's laboratory at LKSOM and co-author on the new study, focused their work on memory impairment and the formation of amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles in an Alzheimer's disease mouse model. Amyloid plaques and phosphorylated tau, which is responsible for the formation of tau neurofibrillary tangles, contribute to neuronal dysfunction and degeneration and memory loss in Alzheimer's disease. The animal model was designed to recapitulate Alzheimer's in humans, progressing from an asymptomatic phase in early life to full-blown disease in aged animals.

 

Dr. Praticò and Lauretti had previously used the same mouse model in an investigation of olive oil, the results of which were published earlier in 2017. In that study, they found that Alzheimer mice fed a diet enriched with extra-virgin olive oil had reduced levels of amyloid plaques and phosphorylated tau and experienced memory improvement. For their latest work, they wanted to determine whether canola oil is similarly beneficial for the brain.

 

The researchers started by dividing the mice into two groups at six months of age, before the animals developed signs of Alzheimer's disease. One group was fed a normal diet, while the other was fed a diet supplemented with the equivalent of about two tablespoons of canola oil daily.

 

The researchers then assessed the animals at 12 months. One of the first differences observed was in body weight -- animals on the canola oil-enriched diet weighed significantly more than mice on the regular diet. Maze tests to assess working memory, short-term memory, and learning ability uncovered additional differences. Most significantly, mice that had consumed canola oil over a period of six months suffered impairments in working memory.

 

Examination of brain tissue from the two groups of mice revealed that canola oil-treated animals had greatly reduced levels of amyloid beta 1-40. Amyloid beta 1-40 is the more soluble form of the amyloid beta proteins. It generally is considered to serve a beneficial role in the brain and acts as a buffer for the more harmful insoluble form, amyloid beta 1-42.

 

As a result of decreased amyloid beta 1-40, animals on the canola oil diet further showed increased formation of amyloid plaques in the brain, with neurons engulfed in amyloid beta 1-42. The damage was accompanied by a significant decrease in the number of contacts between neurons, indicative of extensive synapse injury. Synapses, the areas where neurons come into contact with one another, play a central role in memory formation and retrieval.

 

"Amyloid beta 1-40 neutralizes the actions of amyloid 1-42, which means that a decrease in 1-40, like the one observed in our study, leaves 1-42 unchecked," Dr. Praticò explained. "In our model, this change in ratio resulted in considerable neuronal damage, decreased neural contacts, and memory impairment."

 

The findings suggest that long-term consumption of canola oil is not beneficial to brain health. "Even though canola oil is a vegetable oil, we need to be careful before we say that it is healthy," Dr. Praticò said. "Based on the evidence from this study, canola oil should not be thought of as being equivalent to oils with proven health benefits."

 

The next step is to carry out a study of shorter duration to determine the minimum extent of exposure necessary to produce observable changes in the ratio of amyloid beta 1-42 to 1-40 in the brain and alter synapse connections. A longer study may be warranted in order to determine whether canola oil also eventually impacts tau phosphorylation, since no effects on tau were observed over the six-month exposure period.

 

"We also want to know whether the negative effects of canola oil are specific for Alzheimer's disease," Dr. Praticò added. "There is a chance that the consumption of canola oil could also affect the onset and course of other neurodegenerative diseases or other forms of dementia."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/12/171207141624.htm

Trace elements of lithium in drinking water linked to longer life in Alzheimer's patients

December 5, 2017

Science Daily/IOS Press

Trace elements of lithium in drinking water may slow death rates from Alzheimer's disease, new research suggests. Rates of diabetes and obesity, which are important risk factors for Alzheimer's disease, also decrease if there is a particular amount of lithium in the water, says the study.

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Postdoctoral fellow Val Fajardo and Rebecca MacPherson, Assistant Professor in the Department of Health Sciences, collected statistics on various lithium levels in drinking water in 234 counties across Texas.

 

Lithium is a water-soluble alkali metal found in igneous rocks and mineral springs. It is commonly used to treat bipolar and other mood disorders, but at much higher doses than what occurs naturally in drinking water.

 

The research team, which included Associate Professor of Health Sciences Paul LeBlanc, compared lithium levels naturally found in tap water with Alzheimer's disease mortality rates, along with the incidence of obesity and diabetes, in the Texas counties.

 

"We found counties that had above the median level of lithium in tap water (40 micrograms per litre) experienced less increases in Alzheimer's disease mortality over time, whereas counties below that median level had even higher increases in Alzheimer's deaths over time," says Fajardo.

 

The frequency of obesity and Type 2 diabetes also went down when the drinking water contained similar lithium levels, the researchers found.

 

Fajardo says he and his team focused on Texas because data on lithium levels were "freely available."

 

Previous studies have demonstrated lithium's ability to protect against Alzheimer's disease, obesity and diabetes.

 

"However, we are one of the first groups to show that lithium's potential protective effect against Alzheimer's disease, obesity and diabetes may translate to the population setting through very low levels of lithium in tap water," says Fajardo.

 

The Brock research comes on the heels of an August study from the University of Copenhagen linking high lithium levels in drinking water to decreases in dementia rates.

 

But Fajardo warns it's too early to start advising authorities to add lithium to drinking water.

 

"There's so much more research we have to do before policy-makers look at the evidence and say, OK, let's start supplementing tap water with lithium just like we do in some municipalities with fluoride to prevent tooth decay," he says.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/12/171205144805.htm

High-intensity exercise boosts memory, new research suggests

November 22, 2017

Science Daily/McMaster University

The health advantages of high-intensity exercise are widely known but new research points to another major benefit: better memory. The findings could have implications for an aging population which is grappling with the growing problem of catastrophic diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer's.

 

The findings could have implications for an aging population which is grappling with the growing problem of catastrophic diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer's.

 

Scientists have found that six weeks of intense exercise -- short bouts of interval training over the course of 20 minutes -- showed significant improvements in what is known as high-interference memory, which, for example, allows us to distinguish our car from another of the same make and model.

 

The study is published in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience.

 

The findings are important because memory performance of the study participants, who were all healthy young adults, increased over a relatively short period of time, say researchers.

 

They also found that participants who experienced greater fitness gains also experienced greater increases in brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein that supports the growth, function and survival of brain cells.

 

"Improvements in this type of memory from exercise might help to explain the previously established link between aerobic exercise and better academic performance," says Jennifer Heisz, an assistant professor in the Department of Kinesiology at McMaster and lead author of the study.

 

"At the other end of our lifespan, as we reach our senior years, we might expect to see even greater benefits in individuals with memory impairment brought on by conditions such as dementia," she says.

 

For the study, 95 participants completed six weeks of exercise training, combined exercise and cognitive training or no training (the control group which did neither and remained sedentary). Both the exercise and combined training groups improved performance on a high-interference memory task, while the control group did not.

 

Researchers measured changes in aerobic fitness, memory and neurotrophic factor, before and after the study protocol.

 

The results reveal a potential mechanism for how exercise and cognitive training may be changing the brain to support cognition, suggesting that the two work together through complementary pathways of the brain to improve high-interference memory.

 

Researchers have begun to examine older adults to determine if they will experience the same positive results with the combination of exercise and cognitive training.

 

"One hypothesis is that we will see greater benefits for older adults given that this type of memory declines with age," says Heisz. "However, the availability of neurotrophic factors also declines with age and this may mean that we do not get the synergistic effects."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/11/171122103555.htm

To forget or to remember? Memory depends on subtle brain signals

November 22, 2017

Science Daily/Scripps Research Institute

Understanding how brains actively erase memories may open new understanding of memory loss and aging, and open the possibility of new treatments for neurodegenerative disease.

 

The fragrance of hot pumpkin pie can bring back pleasant memories of holidays past, while the scent of an antiseptic hospital room may cause a shudder. The power of odors to activate memories both pleasing and aversive exists in many animals, from humans to the humble fruit fly.

 

Scientists on the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI), writing in the journal Cell Reports, detailed how the intricate biochemical mechanism for storing scent-associated memories differs slightly from a less-understood mechanism for erasing unnecessary memories.

 

Understanding how brains actively erase memories may open new understanding of memory loss and aging, and open the possibility of new treatments for neurodegenerative disease.

 

In multiple ways, the processes of forgetting and remembering are alike. In fruit fly models of odor-associated learning, both the saving and erasure of memories involves dopamine activation of the brain cells. This clue in flies is important for understanding the human brain.

 

"The olfactory systems of flies and humans are actually quite similar in terms of neuron types and their connections," said study leader Ron Davis, Ph.D., co-chair of TSRI's Neuroscience Department.

 

Also, in both cases, activation of the neurons causes them to make an identical messenger molecule, cyclic AMP, leading to a cascade of activity within the cell, either building or breaking down memory storage, added Davis.

 

"So how do the cells know when they are getting a forgetting signal verses an acquisition signal? That was the huge, perplexing question," Davis said.

 

TSRI Professor Kirill Martemyanov, Ph.D., and Staff Scientist Ikuo Masuho, Ph.D., found that a type of signaling protein in neurons played a role. Masuho and Martemyanov screened a panel of these signaling proteins, called G proteins, against cells that expressed two key receptors known to be involved in memory and forgetting.

 

The TSRI team found one G protein, called G alpha S, that latched on to a neural dopamine receptor called dDA1, associated with memory formation. They found a different G protein, called G alpha Q, linked up with a nearby dopamine receptor called Damb, associated with the machinery of forgetting.

 

The next question was whether those two different G proteins could be controllers of the fly brain's memory machinery. To find out, the researchers silenced genes involved in the production of the G alpha Q protein in the flies. The flies with the protein silenced were exposed to odors in aversive situations and sent through mazes to see how well they remembered to turn away in the presence of the scent.

 

"If you removed G alpha Q, the flies should not forget, and indeed, they did not," Davis said. "They remembered better."

 

It appears in flies that some level of forgetting is a constant, healthy process, he said.

 

"The idea is, constantly as we learn information, there is a slow process that whittles away memories, and it continues whittling them away unless another part of the brain signals the memory is important and overrides it," Davis said.

 

It may be that the process of acquiring and forgetting memories ebbs and flows in a state of balance, he said. Important memories like the taste of mom's pumpkin pie might be forever retained, but trivialities like what you wore 10 years ago can fade into oblivion without consequence.

 

"If you have too much memory that is old and unnecessary, why keep them around? Why shouldn't you have a system for removing those for optimal function of the brain?" Davis asked. "We're getting all this information, all this learning during the day, and the brain may be saying, 'No, no, bring me back to my basal, my happy state.'"

 

Many questions remain to be solved, Davis noted. "We need to figure out what is downstream -- walk down the pathway to find the complete signaling system for forgetting," he said. "We are very early in this research."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/11/171122093120.htm

New details on aged brain, Alzheimer's and dementia

Robust analysis of samples from 107 human brains highlights features of healthy and diseased aging

November 21, 2017

Science Daily/Allen Institute

In a comprehensive analysis of samples from 107 aged human brains, researchers have discovered details that will help researchers better understand the biological bases for Alzheimer's disease and dementia in older populations.

 

"Since the population of individuals over 90 years of age is rapidly increasing, understanding both healthy aging and age-related disease is essential," says Ed Lein, Investigator at the Allen Institute for Brain Science. "This means we must discover how cognitive decline correlates with the brain pathologies we typically attribute to diseases like Alzheimer's in aged brains, as well as the biology underlying individual vulnerability and resilience to disease." In this analysis, researchers sought to understand whether associations previously identified between cognitive status, gene expression and brain pathologies -- such as the plaques and tangles typically found in Alzheimer's disease -- held true in a well characterized, aged population. To achieve this goal, researchers developed a state of the art approach combining traditional and quantitative measures to probe the relationships between gene expression and age-related neurodegeneration.

 

"Several studies exist that compare expression in donor brains aged 60-85 years, but few in the more aged cohort we were able to study here," says Jeremy Miller, Ph.D., Senior Scientist I at the Allen Institute for Brain Science and lead author on the publication. "We found that the more aged brains still showed a correlation between cognitive decline and the Alzheimer's-associated plaques and tangles, although the relationship was not as strong as in younger cohorts."

 

In addition, the research revealed a surprising relationship between dementia and decreased quality of RNA -- a key player in gene expression -- in the more aged brain.

 

"One factor that is not always taken into account when studying gene expression in the aged brain is the quality of the genetic material itself," says Miller. "This variable is not necessarily related to any specific pathology or disease, but these results highlight the importance of properly controlling for RNA quality when studying the aged brain and indicate that degradation of genetic material may be an underappreciated feature of neurodegeneration or dementia."

 

All of the data underlying the research is part of the Aging, Dementia and TBI resource, freely available through the Allen Brain Atlas data portal. "We want to promote a model of systematic, collaborative, multidimensional study of the diseased brain and open access to data and tools to facilitate discovery across the entire basic and biomedical research community," says Lein.

 

"We anticipate that this dataset and research model will inform and help shape future brain aging research to propel a deeper understanding of the mechanisms driving neurological disease for improved diagnostic approaches and effective therapeutic strategies," says C. Dirk Keene, M.D., Ph.D., study co-author and Director of UW Medicine Neuropathology.

 

The study samples come from the Adult Changes in Thought (ACT) study, a longitudinal research effort led by Eric B. Larson, M.D., M.P.H., and Paul K. Crane, M.D., M.P.H., of the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute (KPWHRI) (formerly known as Group Health Research Institute) and the University of Washington School of Medicine to collect data on thousands of aging adults, including detailed information on their health histories and cognitive abilities.

 

"This collaboration with the Allen Institute for Brain Science has allowed us to gain insights never before possible into the relationships between neuropathology, gene expression, RNA quality, and clinical features tracked in the ACT study over more than 20 years," says Larson, who has led the National Institute of Aging-supported study from its start in 1986 and is Vice President for Research and Health Care Innovation at Kaiser Permanente Washington. "We are grateful to the thousands of volunteer subjects who worked with us and those who donated their brains to science. The results are transformative in improving our understanding of the aging brain, a theme of the ACT study, which aims to learn ways to reduce the burden of dementia for individuals and society overall."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/11/171121095148.htm

The link between cognitive function and sexuality in older adults

September 21, 2018

Science Daily/American Geriatrics Society

Researchers learn more about the relationship between sexual behavior, function, and cognition (people's ability to think and make decisions).

 

Experts agree that we know very little about sexuality among people living at home with AD or other cognitive problems. Older adults who have cognitive problems that impact the way they think and make decisions may ask physicians to help managing sexual problems. And caregivers may ask physicians about sexuality in the older adults for whom they provide care.

 

One frequently asked question is: Do older adults always have the capacity to consent to sexual activity?

 

Researchers have previously shown that the majority of people aged 57 to 85 have a spouse or other intimate partner and, among those with a partner, most are sexually active. Having an active sexual life is linked to better physical and mental health, higher quality of life, and lower rates of loneliness.

 

To learn more about the connection between sexuality and cognitive status, researchers designed a new study. They analyzed data from the National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project to learn more about the relationship between sexual behavior, function, and cognition (people's ability to think and make decisions). Their study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

 

Based on their study, the researchers reported that:

 

- 83 percent of men and 57 percent of women had an intimate partner. The more impaired participants' abilities to think and make decisions were, the less likely they were to have an intimate partner.

 

- Women with lower cognitive scores were less likely than men with lower cognitive scores to have intimate partners.

 

- Nearly half of all men with dementia were sexually active, as were 18 percent of women.

 

- Among people with an intimate partner, the majority of men (59 percent) and women (51 percent) with dementia were sexually active. More than 40 percent of partnered men and women ages 80 to 91 living with dementia were sexually active.

 

- More than 1 in 10 people living with a partner reported feeling threatened or frightened by a partner. This finding was similar among women and men and across different levels of cognitive problems. Experts and guidelines call on physicians to screen for elder abuse (the mistreatment of older people, which can take many forms, including physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, financial exploitation, and neglect), including sexual abuse, but definitions of abuse and standards of consent for sex vary widely.

 

The researchers estimate that, among people living at home who are aged 62 and older, at least 1.8 million men and 1.4 million women with suspected or diagnosed dementia are sexually active. This number will more than double by 2050. However, rarely do these people (especially women) receive a physician's counseling about sexual changes that may occur with dementia or other medical conditions.

 

The researchers suggested that these findings can inform improved counseling, treatment, and person-centered decision-making by physicians and other healthcare providers caring for people with dementia or Alzheimer's disease.

 

Sexual activity is an important aspect of human function throughout your lifetime, said the researchers. They added that respectful care for older adults, including people with cognitive impairments, requires an understanding of sexual norms and problems -- and effective strategies to manage sexual concerns with dignity.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/09/180921113453.htm

New insight into aging

Plasticity is enhanced but dysregulated in the aging brain

September 19, 2018

Science Daily/McGill University

Researchers examined the effects of aging on neuroplasticity in the primary auditory cortex, the part of the brain that processes auditory information. Neuroplasticity refers to the brain's ability to modify its connections and function in response to environmental demands, an important process in learning.

 

They say you can't teach old dogs new tricks, but new research shows you can teach an old rat new sounds, even if the lesson doesn't stick very long.

 

Researchers at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital (The Neuro) of McGill University examined the effects of aging on neuroplasticity in the primary auditory cortex, the part of the brain that processes auditory information. Neuroplasticity refers to the brain's ability to modify its connections and function in response to environmental demands, an important process in learning.

 

Plasticity in the young brain is very strong as we learn to map our surroundings using the senses. As we grow older, plasticity decreases to stabilize what we have already learned. This stabilization is partly controlled by a neurotransmitter called gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA), which inhibits neuronal activity. This role of GABA was discovered by K.A.C. Elliot and Ernst Florey at The Neuro in 1956.

 

First author Dr. Mike Cisneros-Franco and lab director Dr. Étienne de Villers-Sidani wanted to test the hypothesis that plasticity stabilization processes become dysregulated as we age. They ran an experiment where rats were exposed to audio tones of a specific frequency to measure how neurons in the primary auditory cortex adapt their responses to the tones.

 

They found that tone exposure caused neurons in older adult rats to become increasingly sensitized to the frequency, but this did not happen in younger adult rats. The effect in the older adult rats quickly disappeared after exposure, showing that plasticity was indeed dysregulated. However, by increasing the levels of the GABA neurotransmitter in another group of older rats, the exposure-induced plastic changes in the auditory cortex lasted longer.

 

These findings suggest the brain's ability to adapt its functional properties does not disappear as we age. Rather, they provide evidence that plasticity is, in fact, increased but dysregulated in the aged brain because of reduced GABA levels. Overall, the findings suggest that increasing GABA levels may improve the retention of learning in the aging brain.

 

"Our work showed that the aging brain is, contrary to a widely-held notion, more plastic than the young adult brain," says Cisneros-Franco. "On the flip side, this increased plasticity meant that any changes achieved through stimulation or training were unstable: both easy to achieve and easy to reverse."

 

"However, we also showed that it is possible to reduce this instability using clinically available drugs. Researchers and clinicians may build upon this knowledge to develop rehabilitation strategies to harness the full plastic potential of the aging brain."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/09/180919115827.htm

Dietary fiber reduces brain inflammation during aging

September 14, 2018

Science Daily/University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences

As mammals age, immune cells in the brain known as microglia become chronically inflamed. In this state, they produce chemicals known to impair cognitive and motor function. That's one explanation for why memory fades and other brain functions decline during old age. But, according to a new study, there may be a remedy to delay the inevitable: dietary fiber.

 

Dietary fiber promotes the growth of good bacteria in the gut. When these bacteria digest fiber, they produce short-chain-fatty-acids (SCFAs), including butyrate, as byproducts.

 

"Butyrate is of interest because it has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties on microglia and improve memory in mice when administered pharmacologically," says Rodney Johnson, professor and head of the Department of Animal Sciences at U of I, and corresponding author on the Frontiers in Immunology study.

 

Although positive outcomes of sodium butyrate -- the drug form -- were seen in previous studies, the mechanism wasn't clear. The new study reveals, in old mice, that butyrate inhibits production of damaging chemicals by inflamed microglia. One of those chemicals is interleukin-1?, which has been associated with Alzheimer's disease in humans.

 

Understanding how sodium butyrate works is a step forward, but the researchers were more interested in knowing whether the same effects could be obtained simply by feeding the mice more fiber.

 

"People are not likely to consume sodium butyrate directly, due to its noxious odor," Johnson says. "A practical way to get elevated butyrate is to consume a diet high in soluble fiber."

 

The concept takes advantage of the fact that gut bacteria convert fiber into butyrate naturally.

 

"We know that diet has a major influence on the composition and function of microbes in the gut and that diets high in fiber benefit good microbes, while diets high in fat and protein can have a negative influence on microbial composition and function. Diet, through altering gut microbes, is one way in which it affects disease," says Jeff Woods, professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Community Health at U of I, and co-author on the study.

 

Butyrate derived from dietary fiber should have the same benefits in the brain as the drug form, but no one had tested it before. The researchers fed low- and high-fiber diets to groups of young and old mice, then measured the levels of butyrate and other SCFAs in the blood, as well as inflammatory chemicals in the intestine.

 

"The high-fiber diet elevated butyrate and other SCFAs in the blood both for young and old mice. But only the old mice showed intestinal inflammation on the low-fiber diet," Johnson says. "It's interesting that young adults didn't have that inflammatory response on the same diet. It clearly highlights the vulnerability of being old."

 

On the other hand, when old mice consumed the high-fiber diet, their intestinal inflammation was reduced dramatically, showing no difference between the age groups. Johnson concludes, "Dietary fiber can really manipulate the inflammatory environment in the gut."

 

The next step was looking at signs of inflammation in the brain. The researchers examined about 50 unique genes in microglia and found the high-fiber diet reduced the inflammatory profile in aged animals.

 

The researchers did not examine the effects of the diets on cognition and behavior or the precise mechanisms in the gut-brain axis, but they plan to tackle that work in the future as part of a new, almost-$2 million grant from the National Institute on Aging, part of the National Institutes of Health.

 

Although the study was conducted in mice, Johnson is comfortable extending his findings to humans, if only in a general sense. "What you eat matters. We know that older adults consume 40 percent less dietary fiber than is recommended. Not getting enough fiber could have negative consequences for things you don't even think about, such as connections to brain health and inflammation in general."

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/09/180914084850.htm

Anxiety, depression, other mental distress may increase heart attack, stroke risk in adults over 45

August 28, 2018

Science Daily/American Heart Association

A new study links anxiety, depression and other mental distress to an increased risk of heart attack and stroke among adults ages 45 or older, even after factoring for lifestyle behaviors and disease history. The associations were slightly stronger for stroke among women than men.

 

In a study of 221,677 participants from Australia, researchers found that:

 

·     among women, high/very high psychological distress was associated with a 44 percent increased risk of stroke; and

·     in men ages 45 to 79, high/very high versus low psychological distress was associated with a 30 percent increased risk of heart attack, with weaker estimates in those 80 years old or older.

 

The association between psychological distress and increased cardiovascular disease risk was present even after accounting for lifestyle behaviors (smoking, alcohol intake, dietary habits, etc.) and disease history.

 

"While these factors might explain some of the observed increased risk, they do not appear to account for all of it, indicating that other mechanisms are likely to be important," said Caroline Jackson, Ph.D., the study's senior author and a Chancellor's Fellow at the University of Edinburgh in Edinburgh, Scotland.

 

The research involved participants who had not experienced a heart attack or stroke at the start of the study and who were part of the New South Wales 45 and Up Study that recruited adults ages 45 or older between 2006 and 2009.

 

Researchers categorized psychological distress as low, medium and high/very high using a standard psychological distress scale which asks people to self-assess the level.

 

The 10-question survey asks questions such as: "How often do you feel tired out for no good reason?" How often do you feel so sad that nothing could cheer you up?" How often do you feel restless or fidgety?"

 

Of the participants -- 102,039 men (average age 62) and 119,638 women (average age 60) -- 16.2 percent reported having moderate psychological distress and 7.3 percent had high/very high psychological distress.

 

During follow-up of more than four years, 4,573 heart attacks and 2,421 strokes occurred. The absolute risk -- overall risk of developing a disease in a certain time period -- of heart attack and stroke rose with each level of psychological distress.

 

The findings add to the existing evidence that there may be an association between psychological distress and increased risk of heart attack and stroke, she said. But they also support the need for future studies focused on the underlying mechanisms connecting psychological distress and cardiovascular disease and stroke risk and look to replicate the differences between men and women.

 

Mental disorders and their symptoms are thought to be associated with increased risk of heart disease and stroke, but previous studies have produced inconsistent findings and the interplay between mental and physical health is poorly understood.

 

People with symptoms of psychological distress should be encouraged to seek medical help because, aside from the impact on their mental health, symptoms of psychological distress appear to also impact physical health, Jackson said. "We encourage more proactive screening for symptoms of psychological distress. Clinicians should actively screen for cardiovascular risk factors in people with these mental health symptoms."

 

All factors analyzed in this research, apart from the outcomes of heart attack and stroke, were identified at the same point in time, which made it difficult for researchers to understand the relationship between psychological distress and variables such as unhealthy behaviors like smoking and poor diet. With that analysis approach, they may have underestimated the effect psychological distress has on the risk of heart attack and stroke.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/08/180828085920.htm

Happy older people live longer

New study among senior Singaporeans suggests happiness may be key to longevity

August 27, 2018

Science Daily/Duke-NUS Medical School

In a new study, researchers have found that increase in happiness is directly proportional with a reduction in mortality. The study, which focused on Singaporeans aged 60 years and older, found that even small increments in happiness may be beneficial, suggesting individual activities as well as government policies and programs that maintain or improve psychological well-being may contribute to longer life.

 

The study utilised data for 4,478 participants of a nationally-representative survey to look at the association between happiness, assessed in the year 2009, and subsequent likelihood of dying due to any cause, until 31 December 2015. The survey was focused on individuals' aged 60 years and older living in Singapore.

 

Happiness was assessed by asking the survey participants how often in the past week they experienced the following: 'I felt happy', 'I enjoyed life' and 'I felt hope about the future'. Their responses were considered in two distinct ways; a 'happiness score', and a 'binary happiness variable -- Happy/Unhappy'. A wide range of demographics, lifestyle choices, health and social factors were accounted for in the analysis.

 

The researchers found that among happy older people, 15% passed away until 31 December 2015. In contrast, the corresponding proportion was higher, at 20%, among unhappy older people. Every increase of one point on the happiness score lowered the chance of dying due to any cause among participants by an additional nine percent. The likelihood of dying due to any cause was 19 percent lower for happy older people. Further, the inverse association of happiness with mortality was consistently present among men and women, and among the young-old (aged 60-79 years) and the old-old (aged 75 years or older).

 

"The findings indicate that even small increments in happiness may be beneficial to older people's longevity," explained Assistant Professor Rahul Malhotra, Head of Research at Duke-NUS' Centre for Ageing Research and Education and senior author of the paper. "Therefore individual-level activities as well as government policies and programs that maintain or improve happiness or psychological well-being may contribute to a longer life among older people."

 

June May-Ling Lee, a co-author, added: "The consistency of the inverse association of happiness with mortality across age groups and gender is insightful -- men and women, the young-old and the old-old, all are likely to benefit from an increase in happiness."

 

Interest in the pursuit of happiness to improve the health of older people has been growing. While previous studies have linked happiness or positive emotions with a range of better health outcomes, the evidence on the effect of happiness on living longer has been inconclusive. Many of these studies do initially observe a greater extent of happiness to be associated with a lower likelihood of dying, but this link disappears once differences in demographic, lifestyle and health factors between those less and more happy are accounted for.

 

This is one of the few Asian studies to have assessed the association between happiness and mortality among older people, while accounting for several social factors, such as loneliness and social network, therefore extending the generalisability of the findings to non-Western populations.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/08/180827100426.htm

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