Shrinking brains and 'silent strokes' studied
December 30th, 2011
05:41 PM ET

Shrinking brains and 'silent strokes' studied

New findings in Alzheimer's disease support longstanding notions of what doctors have preached for years. The studies look at associations, not causes, but they further scientists' pursuit of preventing the fatal brain disease.

It's no secret that healthy diet high in omega-3 fatty acids and rich in vitamins found in fruits and vegetables is good for your overall health and longevity.

In a study released this week in the journal Neurology, scientists associate these fish-rich diets and foods with high levels of vitamins B, C, D, and E nutrients with increased cognitive performance and decreased risk of Alzheimer’s disease, or "brain shrinkage."

People who consume diets high in trans fats, primarily found in fast foods, fried and frozen foods, were more likely to have brain shrinkage and lower scores on the thinking and memory tests than people with diets low in trans fats, the study found.

This is the first study using nutrient biomarkers in the blood to look at the effect of diet on memory, thinking skills and brain volume, researchers said. Similar diet studies in the past primarily depended on participants' memory recall and questionnaires.

“These results need to be confirmed, but obviously it is very exciting to think that people could potentially stop their brains from shrinking and keep them sharp by adjusting their diet,” said study author Gene Bowman, assistant professor of neurology at the Oregon Health and Science University, in a news release from the American Academy of Neurology.

Researchers say diet is just one of many factors that must be taken into consideration when talking about memory loss. People have different genetic tendencies for disease risk, therefore more multigenerational and multicultural studies need to be conducted.

“The assumption is that when you lead a healthy lifestyle, which includes proper nutrition, exercise, and social engagement, you’re maximizing your chance of reduced cardiovascular risk factors, which then maximize your opportunities for delaying Alzheimer’s or dementia,” said Maria Carrillo, senior director of medical and scientific relations at the Alzheimer’s Association.

“Whether that translates into delaying Alzheimer’s, we actually don’t know,” added Carrillo.

In a different study, supported by the National Institutes of Health, new research links "silent strokes," or small spots of dead brain cells, to memory loss in the elderly.

The study found silent strokes in roughly one out of four older adults. The affected adults scored somewhat worse on memory tests than those without silent strokes.

Researchers found this was true whether or not people had a small hippocampus, which is the main memory center of the brain.

"Given that conditions like Alzheimer’s disease are defined mainly by memory problems, our results may lead to further insight into what causes symptoms and the development of new interventions for prevention," study author Adam M. Brickman said in a statement. Brickman works for the Taub Institute for Research on Alzheimer’s Disease and the Aging Brain at Columbia University Medical Center in New York.

Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. It is the only cause of death in the top 10 in America without a way to prevent, cure, or even slow its progression.

"Since silent strokes and the volume of the hippocampus appeared to be associated with memory loss separately in our study, our results also support stroke prevention as a means for staving off memory problems,” said Brickman.

The study will be published in the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology next week.

CNN's Azadeh Ansari wrote this article as part of the MetLife Foundation Journalists in Aging Fellowship, a project of New America Media and the Gerontological Society of America.

Post by:
Filed under: Alzheimer's • Cancer

soundoff (72 Responses)
  1. RationalFew

    I guess we can assume Tea Party people don't consume fish or other Omega 3 fatty acids.

    December 30, 2011 at 19:35 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Michael

      Really, you take a simple medical writeup about a serious medical condition and the only thing you can reply with is some political nonsense? Ignorant idiot.

      December 30, 2011 at 20:27 | Report abuse |
    • kathy carr

      Good one

      December 30, 2011 at 20:58 | Report abuse |
    • jBOB


      December 30, 2011 at 21:15 | Report abuse |
    • jBOB

      RationalFew – GOOD ONE!!!

      December 30, 2011 at 21:16 | Report abuse |
    • Bud in NC

      Michael- Lighten up- you will live longer. I am a liberal and if "Lib" had been put in place of "Tea Party", I would of had a good chuckle. It was funny.

      December 30, 2011 at 21:52 | Report abuse |
    • gstlab3

      ok there dickless you obviously have some more hatred to spread around so why nor join up with a muslim group in the middle east and kill somebody?
      That would be better than being a total loser on American soil AND you are breathing my air and using my tax dollars to live off of while other work to keep your useless ass alive!!!!!!

      December 30, 2011 at 23:31 | Report abuse |
    • Mbeka Kwesi

      I guess we can assume you will be a$$-aped in November 2012.

      December 30, 2011 at 23:43 | Report abuse |
    • Ice-B

      Ooh! Burn!

      December 30, 2011 at 23:50 | Report abuse |
    • glennrobert

      They get their advice from a Shaman!

      December 31, 2011 at 00:14 | Report abuse |
    • Sam A.


      Actually that was a nice joke and you are the one that have a hatred problem.

      December 31, 2011 at 07:36 | Report abuse |
    • Anna(Germany)

      The key to protecting the brain from Alzheimer’s is to use a Specialized diabetes diet. Researchers and a filmmaker in Denmark showed that a specialized diabetes diet will be the "normal" diet for all people (diabetic or not). A filmmaker's diet was shown to protect against heart disease, Alzheimer’s and obesity .Alzheimer’s is related to blood sugar. The diet reverses the damage from food chemicals
      just google SPIRIT HAPPY DIET

      December 31, 2011 at 11:20 | Report abuse |
    • Tom

      Considering most of the medicaid and welfare recipients are high school dropout idiot dems, your concluion is wrong.

      December 31, 2011 at 11:30 | Report abuse |
    • Daniel

      considering most Tea Party are from the midwest you are almost certainly correct

      December 31, 2011 at 22:40 | Report abuse |
    • MotherHenBukBukBukaak

      Best comment of the night.. happy new year.

      December 31, 2011 at 22:58 | Report abuse |
    • Andy T

      This "finding" is another guess crock-of-crap.My father was a health nut and ate very healthy food and never drank or smoked. He was a door door delivery breadman..in Pittsburgh. Had the body of a runner..died from altzheimers....his side of the family had several...........

      December 31, 2011 at 23:09 | Report abuse |
  2. joey

    just shocking ! ? a fat, obese, unhealthy slob american will never understand this

    December 30, 2011 at 19:36 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Linda

      You show your ignorance by jumping to conclusions. I'm a thin, active woman with diabetes and this past summer I had a stroke. For a month I couldn't see, my vision is improving now but it will never be normal again. Strokes can happen to anyone, anytime.

      December 30, 2011 at 21:17 | Report abuse |
    • Mbeka Kwesi

      You desrcibed a typical Liebeeral DemoncRat freeloader or minority leeching off my tax dollars, sitting 80% of the day watching TV or standing in lines for Wellfare checks & Foodstamps.

      December 30, 2011 at 23:45 | Report abuse |
    • Elizabeth

      When analyzing obesity numbers and numbers of people that did not have access to stores that carried vegetables year-round, it was found that the southeast, and all red states, were the most likely to have these problems, as well as B-vitamin deficiency, which has been proven to cause dementia.
      But this article is not about finger pointing but healthy eating.
      My mother had those dead areas in her brain; the memory loss was frustrating for her and everybody who loved her. She regained some of her memory just before she passed away. The brain is a very strange and wonderful thing, and worth preserving. If all the elderly only needed minimal help in old age and could retain much more independence, and pass along family history etc., we would all be much happier.

      December 31, 2011 at 02:42 | Report abuse |
  3. RationalFew indeed

    @RationalFew: Assume what you want, but you've made the fact that you are a hater clear by your words.

    December 30, 2011 at 19:47 | Report abuse | Reply
    • cyberCMDR

      Actually, these studies are a bit of an indictment against the current American standard diet. The average American diet is demonstrably bad for us, as the increasing epidemic of obesity and diabetes clearly shows. Now we know it has cognitive costs as well. As the Tea Party is largely composed of the lower end of the middle class, the probability that they eat lots of processed/fast food low in nutrients and high in trans fats is fairly high (it's cheaper). The correlation is there. Although it may appear somewhat biased to point this out, that doesn't change the facts.

      December 30, 2011 at 23:52 | Report abuse |
    • RationalFew indeed

      @cyberCMDR: "may appear somewhat biased"?

      Correlation is insufficient to show cause and effect. But following your line of thought, how do we explain the population of the County of Los Angeles, what food is sold there, and majority party affiliation? In comparison to that group, how does the diet of southern Louisiana differ regarding seafood consumption and party affiliation?

      The fact that remains clear is that the original snarky remark by “RationalFew” is indefensible hate. I appreciate that you “cyberCMDR” have no contradiction to the point made in my original one sentence post.
      Happy New Year to all!

      December 31, 2011 at 22:21 | Report abuse |
    • Net

      @cyberCMDR – "As the Tea Party is largely composed of the lower end of the middle class, . . " is an incorrect assumption fed to those who listen/watch bias media such as CNBC. My husband and I are members of the Tea Party and are college educated, mainstream, taxpaying citizens of this country.

      Please note that any study or thesis can and will have bias, and bias can be woven into truths to give just enough believable content to persuade. Those who understand statistics know this to be true.

      Question everything and know why you believe what you do believe.

      December 31, 2011 at 23:43 | Report abuse |

    MILLIONS TO BE ASSASSINATED FOR THE SAKE OF $$$ LIABILITIES(mk-ultra, chip implants, electroshocks etc. performed on them) AND NEW WORLD ORDER(multiculturalism = terrorism) POLITICAL AGENDA KNOWN AS "YOU ARE NEXT"(financial liabilities are 2 expensive for the government and it is cheaper to get read of you instead) !!! IF YOU WERE TREATED WITH ELECTROSHOCKS OR DRUGS USED FOR WIPING OUT MEMORY(numerous Americans and Europeans were and are) AFTER ENDURING FORCED CHIP IMPLANTS(or to simply rethard individual), YOU ARE SCHEDULED AT 100% RATE AS GOOD TO GO NEXT !!!






    http://www.youtube.com/user/BostjanAvsec <== OBAMA'S HEALTH CARE RECORDED LIVE IN 2009 !!! These are hard facts about lunatic Obama/Bush's twilight zone administrations(HORROR) or genocide against whites per ZIONIST Washington DC and in complete agreement with communist Moscow !!!


    December 30, 2011 at 20:14 | Report abuse | Reply
    • jos

      Sweetie, get some help.

      December 30, 2011 at 20:20 | Report abuse |
    • rudedog

      Can we say delusional psychopath.

      December 30, 2011 at 23:13 | Report abuse |
    • Mbeka Kwesi

      This is actually true, but the commenters below birried their heads in sand. Multiculturalism is like syphilis, it has to be finally dealt with and eradicated. Viva la Brevik.

      December 30, 2011 at 23:47 | Report abuse |
    • Irishman

      To draw a quote from Billy Madison:

      "Nowhere in your rambling, incoherent statement was there anything even remotely resembling a rational thought... Everyone in this room is now dumber for having heard that. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul."

      December 31, 2011 at 00:07 | Report abuse |
    • glennrobert

      Are you serious? I understand you do NOT like Obama but you ramble!

      December 31, 2011 at 00:19 | Report abuse |
    • Jim


      December 31, 2011 at 02:23 | Report abuse |
    • Lucy

      MKULTR whatever your name is – you must be in the midst of one of these silent strokes the article is talking about.

      January 1, 2012 at 13:48 | Report abuse |
    • Reader50

      Shush now...bedtime.

      January 2, 2012 at 20:11 | Report abuse |
  5. Stanley

    Just learn chess and keep playing it your whole life.

    December 30, 2011 at 20:37 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Bennie

      Or Mahjong

      December 30, 2011 at 20:45 | Report abuse |
  6. Clazy

    I agree with the lady. You make no sense at all. This is the most rambling pile of dung I have ever tried to read.

    December 30, 2011 at 20:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Denver lady

    I'm now 65, so articles like this really catch my attention. Thanks, CNN.
    Regular exercise, especially the aerobic sort, is very important for the brain. Bottom line: Eat good foods, exercise regularly, and don't let yourself become or stay fat, and you will give your aging brain its best possible chance. I'm working on losing some weight myself this year, and it feels great to be doing 6-7 hours of hard exercise per week. (Yes, really!)

    December 30, 2011 at 21:08 | Report abuse | Reply
    • sjmom

      You can't believe everything you read. I've never known my grandmother to be over weight - not even by a couple of pounds. She was absolutely a "head of her time", believing in grazing as opposed to big meals and eating right. For example, while she would never discourage someone from taking medication if they needed it, her first solution to high blood pressure was to eat a banana, She developed Alzheimer's anyway. It was heart breaking to watch someone who exercised and ate right her ENTIE LIFE develop this debilitating disease anyway. I think the key phrase in the article is “Whether that translates into delaying Alzheimer’s, we actually don’t know" - they rally don't know. Eat right because you enjoy it and because it makes you feel good. There's no guarantee or real evidence that it has any impact on Alzheimer's at all.

      January 1, 2012 at 22:21 | Report abuse |
  8. Denver lady

    Good luck to you, Linda. I sympathize. It is true that no one can make their bodies IMMUNE from disease or strokes or heart attacks, but good health habits can certainly help. I just wish that more people would at least try harder. I really fear for today's young people when I observe so many of them overweight, inactive, and smoking. Their fitter parents (yes, I've observed many of those, too) might very well outlive them.

    December 30, 2011 at 21:37 | Report abuse | Reply
    • glennrobert

      My mother died at 39. My dad died at 57. Both were over weight and heavy smokers. They ask me not to smoke and I didn't. I am 82. There is a message there!

      December 31, 2011 at 00:24 | Report abuse |
  9. Leucadia Bob


    December 30, 2011 at 22:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. gstlab3

    Do'nt let this information get out!!!

    are you people crazy???

    If people learn to eat better they will live longer and Social security cannot afford a bunch of old people hanging on for decades!!!!!

    Give these people more fast fake food and preservitives and keep drinking your city water with the pharmaceuticals they can't get out!!!!!

    December 30, 2011 at 23:37 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Elizabeth

      I'd laugh, but... Nursing homes cost so much that you could live at least 5 years independently with minimal help as compared to 1 year in a nursing home for a person with Alzheimer's. So, if the Alzheimer's patient lasts maybe 5 years with dementia, that is equivalent to 25 years without dementia. So, guess which plan saves the TAXPAYER more money... prevention of dementia, or just letting people live as vegetables on YOUR tax dollars? My mother needed 24 hour care from 2005 to 2011, and before that constant care at home for a few years. If you can't do the math, you are certainly starting to experience early-onset dementia.

      December 31, 2011 at 02:54 | Report abuse |
  11. Mbeka Kwesi

    7Billion people is now occupying Earth.
    Why do we need them t live longer to cause more misery? It's either WorlWarIII, mass famine, desease and yes – unhealthy food, that would solve the increasing tension of Overpopulation . Stop educating people about healthy food, we need to send to hell as many folks as we can and sooner.

    December 30, 2011 at 23:49 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Stan

      I agree!! You should jump off the closest high-rise building!

      December 31, 2011 at 01:07 | Report abuse |
    • Elizabeth

      Either limit family size to one child per family, or tell most of the family to become monks and nuns instead of having families: that is the way to cure 7 billion on the planet. Killing off elderly before their time will not stop children from being born; elderly do not reproduce.

      December 31, 2011 at 03:09 | Report abuse |
  12. chedar

    Hah! my brain already shrunk. Sometimes I can't even remember where I park my car.

    December 31, 2011 at 01:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Please stop now

    How doer the UKBRAINCHIPMAN keep the same rant up on CNN? Comments are supposed to be moderated and if deemed inappropriate not posted. Does that mean CNN agrees with this demented person?

    December 31, 2011 at 02:06 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Net

      Report as "abuse."

      December 31, 2011 at 23:50 | Report abuse |
  14. Nece'

    Changing ingrained eating habits, exercising... Easier said than done.

    December 31, 2011 at 02:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. PDC

    I got my words erased because I challenged CNN to monitor Ukbrainchipman's rant. Lmao

    December 31, 2011 at 02:49 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Net

      Did you report the post as "abuse" and get erased? WHAT?

      December 31, 2011 at 23:51 | Report abuse |
  16. Elizabeth

    Cost per MONTH of skilled nursing care can be $5,000 or more for dementia. If an elderly person has their mortgage paid, and hires a few people to help with physical jobs, and most important, is able to think clearly and live independently, they could live many years on the cost of one year of skilled nursing care. 1 year skilled nursing is more than 5 years independent living. 7 years skilled nursing is more than 35 years independent living. Age 65 plus 35 is 100 years old. So, if we can cure Alzheimer's by preventing it, most people would die of other causes and cost TAXPAYERS much less than if we let people die of Alzheimers.

    December 31, 2011 at 03:06 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Net

      Better diet and lifestyle isn't a new concept and the importance of fish oil and B vitamins has also been known to help the neurological system for some time. All these things are fine and good; however, the young people are the ones who need to change lifestyle and dietary habits. It's the years of abuse on the body that pile up. It's just hard when your young to made changes because, after all, that "someday" is a ways off.

      Another important idea to help preserve our brain cells is to keep them active . . another not so new concept. Word puzzles are wonderful as are jigsaw puzzles. Again, this need to begin earlier than the senior years.

      I agree with you Elizabeth. Prevention is the key and it needs to start through education of young people to eat healthy, be active and keep the brain active, and do not do anything to the body that would alter the body systems in any way, this includes abuse of drugs and alcohol.

      January 1, 2012 at 00:00 | Report abuse |
  17. OrangeW3dge

    “Whether that translates into delaying Alzheimer’s, we actually don’t know,” added Carrillo. ---- Which seems to be the underlying statement in most of these provocative "science" articles. I'm still waiting for some real news from these billion-dollar studies...

    December 31, 2011 at 06:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Betty

    A carb conscious paleo diet will do the trick... super healthy and slimming. I eat about 60-65% of my calories from good fats, saturated and grass-fed animal and I am slimmer and healthier than ever and I am never hungry! Veggies are great, easy on the fruit, no grains except for an occasional bite of birthday cake, etc. All these problems can be traced to too much carbohydrate: obesity, diabetes, dementia, metabolic syndrome, most autoimmune disease, even MS and Alzheimer's, etc. We all must make a serious effort to increase omega 3's and decrease omega 6's. If you don't know much about this stuff, get on the web and start reading, it will improve your life! Stop following any USDA food guidelines, they are much of the problem.. Please understand there is NO SUCH THING as a "healthy whole grain."

    December 31, 2011 at 07:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. nwgrandma

    Obviously you people have not had family members with Alzheimer's. After taking care of 3 parents with the disease, I see nothing to joke about in this information. However, I do find it annoying that in all these articles, the things that they say to do to help prevent Alzheimer's are things that our parents all did – ate sensibly, kept active and were very active mentally. Since I am now the age that one of my parents was when he started to show signs of the disease, I hope research comes up with something before too long.

    December 31, 2011 at 09:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Scott Kravatz

    I had a good post about this article but I can't remember what it is.

    December 31, 2011 at 10:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Anna(Germany)

    The key to protecting your brain from Alzheimer’s is to protect yourself with a Specialized diabetes diet. Researchers in Denmark showed that a specialized diabetes diet will be the "normal" diet for all people (diabetic or not). A filmmaker's diet was shown to protect against heart disease, Alzheimer’s and obesity .Alzheimer’s is related to blood sugar. The diet reverses the damage from food chemicals
    just google SPIRIT HAPPY DIET

    December 31, 2011 at 11:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. sayisn'tso

    Mbeka Kwesi
    You desrcibed a typical Liebeeral DemoncRat freeloader or minority leeching off my tax dollars, sitting 80% of the day watching TV or standing in lines for Wellfare checks & Foodstamps.


    December 31, 2011 at 12:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Maudite

    Oh my. All of the anger and disappointment displayed here is depressing. I'm glad that CNN is looking out for us even if we don't deserve it. Thanks for reminding me why I don't like people.

    December 31, 2011 at 22:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Dr.Yes

    Those who don't wish to help old people get decent care and live longer because of
    increasing costs for healthcare as we all age may just
    change their own mindset when (and if they are lucky) get old theirselves.

    January 1, 2012 at 08:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. hamsta

    @rationalfew obviously the tea party has more brain cells than u or ur beloved occupy movement.anyone who cant understand less government intrusion less insane spending and less taxation is a good thing must be a complete moron.the tea party didnt trespass cause traffic jams or interfere with hard working americans jobs.the tea party didnt vandalize commit violent crime or need to be dispersed by the riot police.the tea party didnt have drug overdoses commit arson or disrespect the flag of the united states of america.the occupy movement has done all of that.sounds like the burned out brain cells of a guilty conscience pointing that finger.the proof is in the police reports

    January 1, 2012 at 18:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. hamsta

    @rationalfew obviously the tea party has more brain cells than u or ur beloved occupy movement.anyone who cant understand less government intrusion less insane spending and less taxation is a good thing must be a complete moron.the tea party didnt trespass cause traffic jams or interfere with hard working americans jobs.the tea party didnt vandalize commit violent crime or need to be dispersed by the riot police.the tea party didnt have drug overdoses commit arson or disrespect the flag of the united states of america.the occupy movement has done all of that.sounds like the burned out brain cells of a guilty conscience pointing that finger.the proof is in the police reports.why dont u socialists go live in greece?maybe then u will learn to appreciate america.

    January 1, 2012 at 18:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. deemarie

    I'm embarrassed by these Comments. Ashamed. Are CNN fans this stupid? Are all Americans this dumb. We're talking Alzheimer's....so someone tries a little joke so what, big deal. But no you guys have done nothing but waste time, space and energy behind it. disgusting

    January 1, 2012 at 22:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. rh

    I went in the hospital for an "atypical stroke' due to a chronic illness, and they wrote me up as a psychiatric case. Unless you have a very severe stroke and are significantly incapacitated (can't walk or talk), they won't even consider doing a stroke workout on you right away. No neurologist seems to care about little events, they want near death events...

    January 2, 2012 at 14:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Vannesa Cowper

    This is the best search system in the planet


    April 15, 2017 at 06:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Timmy Allred

    That is the very best search system in the world


    April 18, 2017 at 04:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Gregg Cinalli

    Very nice article. I surely love your site. Keep writing!


    April 19, 2017 at 04:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Elliott Kirschenbaum

    Great blog here! Also your web site loads up very fast! What host are you using? Can I get your affiliate link to your host? I wish my website loaded up as quickly as yours lol


    January 15, 2021 at 23:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Carey Chasser

    I got what you intend, regards for putting up.Woh I am pleased to find this website through google. "Those who corrupt the public mind are just as evil as those who steal from the public." by Theodor Wiesengrund Adorno.


    January 21, 2021 at 03:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Bernardine Uyehara

    I delight in, cause I found just what I was looking for. You have ended my four day lengthy hunt! God Bless you man. Have a great day. Bye


    January 28, 2021 at 22:01 | Report abuse | Reply

Leave a Reply to nwgrandma


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.