Scientists have finally nailed down one link between brain health and the “polar bear plunge.”

After many years of anecdotal evidence, scientists have finally nailed down one link between brain health and the “polar bear plunge.”

In a study associated with the #blood profiles of regular winter-time swimmers in London, Cambridge University researchers have identified a protein which was shown to slow the onset of #dementia in mice — and even repair a number of the damage brought on by the illness.

Their findings hinted at an explanation as to why hibernating animals, who lose 20% to 30% of these synapses during the cold winter to preserve energy, can regenerate those neural connections upon awakening in the spring.
Their findings hinted at a reason as to the reasons hibernating animals, who lose 20% to 30% of these synapses during the cold winter to preserve energy, can regenerate those neural connections upon awakening in the spring. (iStock)

For a long time, doctors have observed the healing and protective advantages of cold environments on individual ill patients but had yet to locate any connection.

If they revealed the role of a specific #protein — the RBM3 — in other mammals, such as bears, the #pathology behind its healing power began falling into place.

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In a 2015 study published in the journal Nature, the Cambridge team discovered “cold-shock chemicals” during animal studies on healthy mice, mice with #Alzheimer’s, yet others with a prion, a neurodegenerative #disease. They observed that whenever healthy mice were placed into a hypothermic state — below 35 degrees Celsius — and then carefully rewarmed, they reap the benefits of a natural boost of RBM3. Once fully reanimated, researchers found the ordinary mice had also healed neurons that were harmed by the first shock.

Mice with Alzheimer’s and prion demonstrated neither effect.

However, in another test, scientists instead artificially increased RBM3 levels in the sick mice, then repeated the “cold-shock” process. This time around, the protein seemed to prevent vulnerable synapses — or cell connectors — from breaking, suggesting that RBM3 might shield the brain from #dementia diseases’ outcomes.

Their findings hinted at a description as to why hibernating animals, who lose 20% to 30% of their synapses during the cold winter to preserve energy, can regenerate those neural connections upon awakening into the spring.

During the time, Professor Giovanna Mallucci, who runs great Britain Dementia Research Institute’s Center at Cambridge, confessed to BBC Radio 4 Today listeners that the breakthrough study may end there as few human subjects would willingly submit themselves to hypothermia.

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Those few, however, heeded the call of science. Martin Pate, a swimmer at Parliament Hill Lido in London, an outdoor pool open year-round, got in touch with researchers, volunteering himself and a little set of swimmers through the center — in the end, these were familiar with frigid temperatures.

People in a #Tai Chi group who practice near the pool were enlisted as a control group and not submitted to cold weather.

As researchers suspected, most swimmers, recovering from core temperatures as low as 34 degrees Celsius, showed notably high levels of RBM3 in contrast to the Tai Chi group.

COMMON SENSE OF SMELL MAY INDICATE LOWER RISK OF DEMENTIA IN OLDER ADULTS: STUDY

“If you slowed the progress of dementia by even a few years on an entire population, that could have an enormous impact economically and health-wise,” said Mallucci, who shared her recent, unpublished findings in a live panel on YouTube.

However, researchers cannot recommend ice baths as a safe treatment due to the inherent dangers of swimming in near-freezing temperatures. A “cold-shock” is sufficient to prompt a heart attack or stroke in patients with high blood pressure levels or cause a swimmer to reduce their coordination, resulting in drowning.

Reference
Cold water may be an effective defense against dementia …. https://www.foxnews.com/health/cold-water-may-be-effective-defense-dementia

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