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Educational achievement helps brain to combat Alzheimer’s

Higher educational attainment is associated with a significantly lower chance of having Alzheimer’s disease, according to a major genetic study


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Higher educational attainment is associated with a significantly lower chance of having Alzheimer’s disease, according to a major genetic study.

Researchers from the University of Cambridge, the Karolinska Institute in Sweden and several institutions in Munich studied 17,008 cases of Alzheimer’s and control groups of 37,154 people.

They found that education could combat the risk by building a ‘cognitive reserve’ that helps the brain counter neurological damage from the disease.

Education also increases the likelihood people will follow a healthier lifestyle, associated with a lower risk of Alzheimer’s, the research published in the BMJ shows.

Coffee link

Other studies have associated low educational attainment with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s.

The new study used data from gene studies of up to about 405,000 individuals to examine the effect for 24 different factors, including education, diet, lifestyle and health.

It found a ‘suggestive association’ between high consumption of coffee and chances of getting Alzheimer’s, which the researchers say needs further investigation.

In an associated editorial in the BMJ, Gill Livingston and Andrew Sommerlad of University College London say: ‘Education is likely to play a role in dementia risk through building cognitive reserve, the label for having a more resilient brain, able to better withstand neuropathological damage; and increasing healthy behaviours, including that related to heart health.’


Larsson, S (2017 et al) Modifiable pathways in Alzheimer’s disease: Mendelian randomisation analysis. BMJ. doi:10.1136/bmj.j5375

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