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Risk factors for ageing in the brain revealed

Researchers from the University of Oxford have discovered that diabetes, traffic-related air pollution and alcohol intake are the most harmful out of 15 modifiable risk factors for dementia.

The researchers had previously identified regions of the brain that are particularly vulnerable to ageing, schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease.

In this new study, they investigated the genetic and modifiable influences on these particular brain regions by looking at the brain scans of 40,000 participants aged over 45.

The researchers examined 161 risk factors for dementia, and ranked their impact on this vulnerable brain network, over and above the natural effects of age. They classified these risk factors into 15 broad categories: blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, weight, alcohol consumption, smoking, depressive mood, inflammation, pollution, hearing, sleep, socialisation, diet, physical activity and education.

Prof Gwenaëlle Douaud, who led the study, said: ‘We know that a constellation of brain regions degenerates earlier in ageing, and in this new study we have shown that these specific parts of the brain are most vulnerable to diabetes, traffic-related air pollution – increasingly a major player in dementia – and alcohol, of all the common risk factors for dementia.”

This research sheds light on some of the most critical risk factors for dementia, and provides novel information that can contribute to prevention and future strategies for targeted intervention. The findings were published in Nature Communications.

Iron deficiency noted in overweight youngsters

A new study has revealed that children and young people who are overweight or obese are at a significantly higher risk of iron deficiency.

Researchers from the School of Food Science and Nutrition at the University of Leeds examined thousands of medical studies from 44 countries involving people under the age of 25 where levels of iron and other vitamins and minerals had been recorded alongside weight.

They found that iron deficiency was associated with both underweight and overweight children and adolescents. By contrast, zinc and vitamin A deficiencies were only observed in children who were undernourished, leading researchers to conclude that iron deficiency in overweight children is probably due to inflammation disrupting the mechanisms that regulate iron absorption. The results were published the journal BMJ Global Health.

Did you know?

Going to sleep between 10pm and 11pm is linked to a lower risk of heart and circulatory disease, according to research published in the European Heart Journal.