A research study has found that long-term exposure to air pollution may lead to loss of white matter in the brain.
In the study, older women who lived in places with higher air pollution had significantly reduced white matter in the brain. White matter in the brain is made of axon cells, which enable the nerves to communicate.
“Investigating the impact of air pollution on the human brain is a new area of environmental neurosciences,” said lead author of the study Jiu-Chiuan Chen from Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California in the US.
“Our study provides the convincing evidence that several parts of the ageing brain, especially the white matter, are an important target of neurotoxic effects induced by long-term exposure to fine particles in the ambient air.”
For the study, the researchers took brain scans of 1403 women who were 71 to 89 years old and used residential histories and air monitoring data to estimate their exposure to air pollution in the previous six to seven years.
The results suggest that ambient particulate air pollutants may have a deleterious effect on brain ageing.
The study was published in the journal Annals of Neurology.
Besides flu vaccines, maternal intake of a vitamin B nutrient can prevent babies from brain disorders caused by cold or flu in pregnancy, say researchers.
The study showed that higher levels of choline prevented brain problems and mental illness, like attention deficit disorder and schizophrenia, in babies even when the mother had cold or flu during pregnancy.
“Cold and flu are often unavoidable, even if the mother has had a flu shot. But cold and flu during pregnancy double the risk of future mental illnesses. More and more information show choline helps the baby’s brain develop properly,” said Robert Freedman, Professor at the University of Colorado in the US.
“We found higher levels of choline prevent foetal brain problems from developing, even when the mother is infected. Choline supplements in pregnancy can have a lifelong benefit for the infant,” Freedman said.
For the study, published in the Journal of Paediatrics, the team assessed prenatal maternal infection, C-Reactive Protein (CRP) — a marker of maternal inflammation — and the mothers’ choline levels.
Brain development before birth was assessed by measuring the baby’s brain waves soon after birth.
When mothers had a cold or flu during the first 16 weeks of pregnancy, the newborns’
ability to cease or delay the effect on the brain decreased by 27 per cent.
Maternal flu also decreased children’s ability to pay attention and play.
However, these effects were prevented if the mother had higher choline levels, the findings showed.
While the body creates some choline on its own and it is also naturally present in certain foods, including liver, red meat and eggs, pregnant women are recommended 450 mg of choline a day to improve babies’ brain development. (IANS)