I have posted several blogs relating the fundamental role of inflammation to neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Indeed, this is one of the central themes of Grain Brain.
That said, we’ve also got to take a look at the role of inflammation in the developing brain because the same damaging effects of the chemical mediators of inflammation in the adult might well lead to issues in the delicate brains of infants and young children.
In a new study just published in the journal BMC Pediatrics, researchers looked at several parameters in infants including the frequency of febrile illnesses, as well as blood markers of increased inflammation including IL-1 beta, IL-6, and IL-4 which is thought to indicate reduction of inflammation.
What the authors discovered was dramatic. There was a significant direct relationship between higher levels of the inflammatory markers and risk for developmental issues. In addition, higher levels of IL-4, associated with lower levels of inflammation, correlated perfectly with reduced risk for developmental problems.
Further, the authors found that: “Every additional 10 days of fever was associated with a 1.9 decrease in language composite score and a 2.1 decrease in motor composite score.”
So the role of inflammation in brain health and function throws a wide net and does indeed prove of fundamental importance throughout the age continuum. As far as infant health is concerned, keeping inflammation down looks like an important goal. Inflammation is reduced when babies are health and have healthy immune systems. That means minimizing antibiotic exposure as much as possible, spacing immunizations so kids don’t get a boatload at a single visit to the pediatrician, breastfeeding whenever possible, and doing the best you can to avoid caesarean section.