Exposure to inflammation early in life from ailments such as chronic periodontal disease quadruples an individual's risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, researchers reported at the first Alzheimer's Association International Conference on Prevention of Dementia.
The research team sifted through data on the 20,000 participants in the Swedish Twin Registry and found 109 "discordant" pairs of twins in which only one twin had been diagnosed with dementia.
Previous studies have shown that Alzheimer's disease is strongly genetic; if one twin has the disease, his or her identical twin has a 60 percent chance of developing it.
Information about participants' education, activities and health histories came from surveys they completed in the 1960s, when the registry was created, as well as from hospital discharge records. The surveys included questions about loose or missing teeth. Researchers used the answers to the dental-related questions to build a crude indicator of periodontal disease.
They concluded that an inflammatory burden early in life, as represented by chronic periodontal disease, might have severe consequences later.
"If what we’re indexing with periodontal disease is some kind of inflammatory burden, then it is probably speaking to general health conditions," said lead researcher Dr. Margaret Gatz from the University of Southern California.
If the link between inflammation and periodontal disease is confirmed, researchers said it would add inflammatory burden to the short list of preventable risk factors for Alzheimer's disease.
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