Speaking Two Languages Delays Alzheimer’s

By Jonathan Galland

Speaking Two Languages Delays Alzheimer’s


Parlez-vous Francaise?


¿Habla Español?


If you answered Oui, or Si, or you speak any other foreign language, it could be good for your brain.


Because speaking two languages could help delay onset of Alzheimer’s symptoms by as much as five years, according to new research from Canada.


“No drug interventions are this dramatic,” say the researchers.


As a speaker of Italian, Japanese and a little French and Spanish, I was excited to learn about this research.


Dr. Craik, lead investigator and co-editor of The Oxford Handbook of Memory, explains: "We are not claiming that bilingualism in any way prevents Alzheimer’s or other dementias, but it may contribute to cognitive reserve in the brain which appears to delay the onset of Alzheimer’s symptoms for quite some time."


The study, published in the journal Neurology, reinforces results from a 2007 study that found bilingual patients delayed onset of their Alzheimer’s or dementia symptoms by four years.


Of course there are many other factors that impact brain health as we age: nutrition, medications, social life, exercise, and stress, to name a few examples.  For a look at the complex relationship between B Vitamins and Alzheimer’s read: To B or Not to B Vitamins?


And for a look at how the hormone leptin protected people from developing Alzheimer’s see Leptin Fights Alzheimer’s Disease


To learn more about the Canadian research, read the full release below:


Bilingualism delays onset of Alzheimer’s symptoms

No drug interventions are this dramatic, say investigators


A Canadian science team has found more dramatic evidence that speaking two languages can help delay the onset of Alzheimer’s symptoms by as much as five years.


The latest study, led by Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute, examined the clinical records of more than 200 patients diagnosed with probable Alzheimer’s disease and found that those who have spoken two or more languages consistently over many years experienced a delay in the onset of their symptoms by as much as five years. The study is published in the Nov. 9th issue of Neurology.


The science team includes internationally-renowned cognitive researcher Dr. Fergus Craik of the Rotman Research Institute; Dr. Ellen Bialystok of York University, a leading expert in bilingualism research; and Dr. Morris Freedman, one of Canada’s leading clinicians in the diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer’s and other dementias.


"We are not claiming that bilingualism in any way prevents Alzheimer’s or other dementias, but it may contribute to cognitive reserve in the brain which appears to delay the onset of Alzheimer’s symptoms for quite some time," said Dr. Craik, lead investigator and co-editor of The Oxford Handbook of Memory.


The brains of people who speak two languages still show deterioration from Alzheimer’s pathology; however, their special ability with two languages seems to equip them with compensatory skills to hold back the tell-tale symptoms of Alzheimer’s, such as memory loss, confusion, and difficulties with problem-solving and planning.


"These results are especially important for multicultural societies like ours in Canada where bilingualism is common," said Dr. Bialystok, professor of Psychology at York University and associate scientist at the Rotman Research Institute. "We need to understand how bilingualism changes cognitive ability, especially when there are clinical implications as in this case."


Observations were made on 211 patients diagnosed with probable Alzheimer’s from the Sam and Ida Ross Memory Clinic at Baycrest, from 2007 to 2009. The patients’ date of diagnosis and age of onset of cognitive impairment were recorded along with information on occupational history, education and language history (i.e. fluency in English and any other languages). Following this procedure, 102 patients were classified as bilingual and 109 as monolingual.


The researchers found that bilingual patients had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s 4.3 years later and had reported the onset of symptoms five years later than the monolingual patients. The groups were equivalent on measures of cognitive and occupational level, there was no apparent effect of immigration status, and there were no gender differences.


The Neurology paper replicates findings from the team’s widely-reported 2007 study led by Dr. Bialystok and published in Neuropsychologia. That study examined the clinical records of 184 patients diagnosed with probable Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia – and found that bilingual patients delayed the onset of their symptoms by four years compared to monolingual patients.


The current study adds to mounting scientific evidence that lifestyle factors – such as regular cardiovascular exercise, a healthy diet, and speaking more than one language – can play a central role in how the brain copes with age-related cognitive decline and diseases such as Alzheimer’s.


"Although a great deal of research is being focused on the development of new and more effective medications for Alzheimer’s disease, there are currently no drug treatments that show any effects on delaying Alzheimer’s symptoms, let alone delaying the onset of these symptoms by up to five years," said Dr. Freedman, head of Neurology and director of the Sam and Ida Ross Memory Clinic at Baycrest.


This study was supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Alzheimer Society of Canada.


Important: Spread the health by forwarding this article to your friends, and sharing on Facebook.


Now we’d like to hear from you…


Do you speak a second language?

Do you notice any changes or benefits?

Please let us know your thoughts by posting a comment below.


Wishing You Best Health!
The Pill Advised Team




Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute, a health sciences centre affiliated with the University of Toronto, is a world-class developer of innovations in aging that enhance quality of life by optimizing physical and mental wellbeing.


One thought on “Speaking Two Languages Delays Alzheimer’s

  1. Steve Lester

    I am a native English-speaker, teaching drawing in Russian for about 10 years. I think the concurrent use of the two languages does help with keeping my brain active. I note that Alzheimer’s in particular is delayed in onset by four or five years by bilingualism. That’s great, but my five years are long used up, so I should be looking at leptin and other means, I guess.

    I have been living with Lyme since 1997, when I received a tick bite in Estonia. I recognized the bull’s-eye rash, got the doxycyline immediately. But at that time, ten days was considered adequate. It wasn’t, isn’t, and the spirochete got a foothold. Several follow-up courses of antibiotics have yielded only temporary results. Since reading about how Borrelia when exposed to antibiotics, !. disintegrates into about 40 fragments, but when the antibiotics wane in the bloodstream, regenerates about 40 new healthy spirochetes from the fragments, or 2. retreats into cysts to wait out the bad weather, emerging unharmed when the medications are gone, I concluded that antibiotics were not a long-term answer for me.

    I currently am holding the Lyme at bay through a long and complicated course of homeopathic treatment. I cannot report a conclusive and final cure, but the terrible confusion into which I was descending before the homeopathy is no longer a probem. The joints continue to give trouble.

    Considering the damage that very heavy antibiotic dosages do to my immune and other systems, and the infallibly temporary nature of the relief they offer, I continue with the apparently illogical but nevertheless helpful homeopathic route.

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