As the nation collectively ages, brain health has become a super hot topic. I mean, who doesn’t want to keep their memory intact well beyond their golden years? (Even if there are some things we wish we could forget, like the turmoil from this pandemic!)
Of course, our conversations about warding off cognitive decline typically focus on lifestyle—including proper nutrition, regular exercise, and mental engagement.
But a recent study linked cognitive impairment to a COMMON PARASITE!
Small but significant
The parasite in question is Toxoplasma gondii (T gondii).
(The connection between this specific parasite and dementia isn’t exactly news to me. In fact, when I first started training as a physician, we were in the midst of the HIV epidemic. And many patients ended up with toxoplasmosis, which ultimately led to dementia.)
For this new analysis, researchers reviewed 13 different studies featuring more than 13,000 healthy adults, with an average age close to 50. Just over 22 percent of the subjects showed antibodies against T gondii.
The studies looked at four different aspects of cognition: processing speed, working memory, short-term verbal memory, and executive functioning.
Ultimately, those who tested positive for T gondii had lower functioning in all cognitive domains—a difference that the researchers labeled “small but significant.” Plus, statistical analysis showed that executive functioning became worse over time in this group. And that’s particularly concerning.
Up to 15 percent of people in the U.S. might test positive for T gondii—and that statistic jumps as high as 50 percent in places like Germany and France. (Even higher in countries less economically developed.)
And with numbers like that, even a “small” effect on cognition could wind up being a very big deal.
A widespread problem
As I explained, T gondii is a parasite that gets into the cells of your body. And statistics suggest that it may be quietly living in nearly one-third of the humans on this planet.
But when you’re infected with the parasite, it eventually makes its way into your muscles, your liver, and yes, your brain. (That’s one reason why research has linked it to neuropsychiatric disorders and suicide attempts in the past.)
And while we don’t know exactly what causes these neurological changes, we do know that the parasite can form cysts in the brain that affect dopamine transmission. Immune responses to brain infection could also potentially be to blame. (Sadly, you can see these changes in CT scans from a mile away—in the form of huge holes in the brain—as I witnessed when caring for HIV patients years ago.)
So, how can you protect yourself? Well, the most common means of infection are through eating meat contaminated with the parasite (another reason to opt for organic, grass-fed and -finished varieties)—or by handling infected cat feces (a reminder to always wash your hands thoroughly after cleaning up after your kitty).
This latest finding may not be a pleasant reminder, but it’s certainly a welcome one. I’m actually going to get myself and all of my patients tested for T Gondii now. And I encourage you to talk to your doctor about doing the same.
And for additional ways to naturally protect (and restore) memory, strengthen focus, and ultimately fight dementia, check out my Alzheimer’s Prevention and Treatment Plan. To learn more about this comprehensive, online learning tool—or to enroll today—click here now!
“Common Parasite Now Tied to Impaired Cognitive Function.” Medscape Medical News, 07/22/2021. (medscape.com/viewarticle/955248)