Friday, October 7, 2016

Nutrition, Inflammation, and Cognitive Function

This study looks at the correlation between inflammation and nutrition on cognitive function. Inflammation is a necessary process by which the body responds to an injury or sickness. Inflammation at the proper levels promotes tissue repair and regeneration while limiting an invasive pathogens ability to grow. Pro-inflammation pathways are highly regulated by a series of anti-inflammation processes which keep the body within the proper balance. Anti-inflammation processes allow the pro-inflammation pathways to take action when we are hurt or sick and then increase their presence to regulate the pro-inflammation pathways back to normal levels once we’re healed. If the anti-inflammation processes are not controlled however, they may lead to a state of chronic low-grade inflammation which makes the host susceptible to a multitude of diseases and neurological disorders. C-reactive proteins (CRPs) are a very sensitive marker found within the blood that accurately indicate inflammation levels and as such as used to monitor said levels by medical professionals. CRP is now the most widely used predictor of cardiovascular disease.
The authors of this study hypothesize that a healthy diet has a duel effect of both reducing inflammation to proper levels and ameliorating neurodegenerative disorders. This paper reviews the current body of work regarding inflammation as the key mechanism for cognitive function and the impact a diet heavy in anti-inflammatory producing foods have on nutrition, immunity, and neurology. The study proceeds to identify a body of medical studies which correlate chronic low-grade inflammation to diseases such as Alzheimer’s, diabetes, stroke, tramatic brain injury, and MS. The authors then identify diet patterns which have been found to be effective at reducing inflammation levels. Diets heavy in omega 3 fatty acids found in fish oils, grapes, apples, berries, pomegranetes, green teas, and other food high in anti-oxidants have been found to have anti-inflammatory qualities and related health benefits. A diet high in these foods, along with high consumption of fruits and vegetables, serum carotenoids, vitamins, fiber, and magnesium are found to have a significant impact in terms of reducing inflammation and in particular CRP levels. The Mediterranean diet was cited as a perfect example of a diet rich in anti-oxidant foods that have been found to lower inflammation levels. The study then identifies obesity as being a direct result of chronic low-grade inflammation along with the contributing factors smoking provides. The authors go on to claim that children and adolescents with poor nutrition are prone to alterations of mental and behavioral functions that can to a certain extent be modified with the introduction of a more well-rounded diet. The author concludes the study by indicating that although a healthy diet correlates with lower CRP concentrations, the question remains as to whether the lowering of CRPs reduces the likelihood of stoke, cognitive decline, or depression. Future cross-disciplinary research collaborations and controlled studies are suggested to further research the mechanisms underlying these diseases believed to be impacted by high inflammation levels to see if a change in diet can prevent, halt, or reverse the impact of these diseases.

I found this study to be a very different read than previous articles in this course due to the medical nature of the topic. Many of the medical terms used throughout this paper were beyond my comprehension. However, the author did a nice job writing up most of the article in a manner in which non-medically inclined readers can benefit. This article cited numerous studies that concerned the effects diet have on cognitive function and overall health. But this article in and of itself did not conduct any new studies to contribute to the existing field. It seems that like many other scholarly articles I’ve read in recent past, the authors identify sources which confirm their hypothesis and then cover themselves by adding the caveot that more research is still needed to more fully understand. In this instance, the author believes a diet heavy in anti-inflammatory foods will result in a healthier life with reduced chances of developing serious neurological disorders and diseases. She then cites over 100 articles which all claim to have conducted studies of scientific significance which seek to find answers to these questions. Finally, the author admits that while correlations do exist, they cannot be confirmed as causations until further research is done. While the answer as to whether diet impacts one’s ability to think critically was not directly answered in this study, it does provide a very decent starting point in terms of identifying the impact diet has on overall mental and physical health. And after all, one’s ability to conduct analytical analysis is heavily dependent on one’s ability to physically be able to withstand the demands of conducting intelligence work. A body riddled with crippling disease and mental disorder serves no function within an intelligence organization. So it seems intuitive that a diet heavy in fruits and vegetables and low in saturated and trans fats, starches, and sugars would go a long way in preserving overall health while also ensuring one’s ability to continue working.  

Wärnberg, J., Gomez‐Martinez, S., Romeo, J., Díaz, L. E., & Marcos, A. (2009). Nutrition, inflammation, and cognitive function. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1153(1), 164-175.


  1. This qualitative study was an interesting read Eric. Out of the 100 scientific studies listed in the article showing scientific significance for a diets in anti-inflammatory foods resulting in healthier life styles, with reduced chances of developing serious neurological disorders and diseases, did it mention which one was most prevalent and why?

  2. Roland, good question. I didn't find any articles in particular that they referenced more than others. In fact this article didn't reference any of the cited authors. What I did find that was interesting was that out of the 126 citations listed, the majority had titles that there directly related to the topic at hand. By that I mean they had keywords such as "omega 3s" and "diet and cognitive ability". It appears there is no lack of research being conducted on the topic of diet and cognitive abilities. If only we had as much interest and ability to conduct as much scientific study in the IC.

    1. Eric, I agree, I was able to find different articles that related to nutrients like omega 3s and fish oils. However, I found that many articles seemed to focus on Alzheimer's Disease. It was harder to find research that focused on cognitive functioning in general.

    2. With alzhimers being the most horrid thing that could happen to a brain, a great many studies are focused on it. The brain experiences cognitive decline as plaques build up within and destroy synaptic links. If there is a food that can stop, heal, or reverse it, it could translate into something worthwhile for a healthy brain. Probably.