Across the world there are chronic diseases affecting the lives of many, most of which are preventable or modifiable by appropriate lifestyle changes. Yet currently politicians are unwilling to legislate change, to force behaviours that in turn diminish the costs to the individual and to society.This will not last, vested interests in the production of foods, drugs and drinks that are in part responsible for controlling the proliferation of health decline will succumb. The cost for your neighbours or your own profligate lifestyle and poor choice is not insignificant and ultimately all of the population will pay the price from ecological and environmental damage to gross declines in human health and capability. There is little point in hoping that this will be mitigated by an app, a discount site of some miracle drug, as the causes are multi factorial and therefore complex to impact.

Perhaps the area of greatest concern for people is the rapidly rising incidence of mental and cognitive decline, to see this as a consequence of longevity diminishes responsibility to just dying early – this is neither accurate or responsible. Whereas mortality has dominated peoples objectives for decades, it is morbidity that is more relevant. Departure from a state of physical or psychological well-being, resulting from disease, illness, injury, or sickness, specially where the affected individual is aware of his or her condition. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), morbidity could be measured in terms of (1) number of persons who were ill, (2) illnesses these persons experienced, and (3) the duration of these illnesses.

The open access paper published in Aging and Mechanism of Disease explores the role of lifestyle changes that appear to offer genuine preventative effects in the risks for dementia.[1]

The author summarises evidence that suggests it may be possible to forestall most cases of late onset dementia by enhancing the ability of neurons to mitigate the stressors involved in the
neurodegenerative process, including metabolic, oxidative, ionic, proteotoxic and inflammatory stress. This can be accomplished by regular ‘challenge—recovery cycles’ in which neurons experience a mild stress (excitatory, metabolic and oxidative) during the challenge, followed by a rest/recovery period. He concentrates on exercise, dietary energy restriction and regular engagement in intellectual challenges:

  • the evidence from animal studies that the latter three intermittent challenges enhance neuroplasticity and the resistance of neurons to injury and disease is compelling and conclusive;
  • the evidence from human studies is strong;
  • adaptive responses of the nervous system to exercise, energy restriction and intellectual challenges have been tested and refined during millions of years of evolution;
  • individuals concerned about their brain health can choose to incorporate these three challenges into their daily and weekly routines without concern for the kinds of adverse side effects common with drugs.

Intermittent bioenergetic challenges forestall late onset dementia by stimulating adaptive stress response pathways. As with other species, humans evolved in environments where there was competition for food, mates and other resources. Accordingly, selection favoured individuals whose brains functioned best when they were hungry, physically active and under stress. In response to the challenges (exercise, dietary energy restriction/fasting, intellectual challenges and consumption of noxious petrochemicals from plants) neurons experience mild bioenergetic and oxidative stress. The neurons respond adaptively by activating signalling pathways that improve their ability to cope with more severe stress and resist disease and associated dementia – what do you intend to do?


[1] Mattson MP.Late-onset dementia: a mosaic of prototypical pathologies modifiable by diet and lifestyle. Aging and Mechanism of Disease. 2015; 28th Sept View Full Article.