Cold water swimming could help protect the brain against dementia and different degenerative diseases, according to a research.
Scientists investigating swimmers in London‘s Parliament Hill Lido discovered high levels of the ‘cold-shock’ protein — RBM3 — in their bloodstream.
The ‘cold-shock’ protein is also generated by hibernating mammals, activating the destruction and regrowth of synapses — which are completely lost in dementia. Their loss stimulates a deterioration in cognitive capacity, causing tell-tale indications of the disease such as problem with concentrating and confusion.
Scientists say their regeneration is promising because it fixes up important connections in the brain, averting the debilitating situation for longer.
In periods when hibernating animals — comprising hedgehogs, bears and squirrels — bed down for the winter the protein stimulates the removal of 20 to 30 per cent of their synapses. But by the spring, it prompts the remarkable regrowth of these connections as the animals stir.
Researches in mice with dementia have even revealed that the protein could help inhibit the onset of degenerative brain diseases.
Scientists from Cambridge University, who have considerably covered the link between dementia and the ‘cold-shock’ protein, explain that their research indicates a drug that can activate the generation of this protein could avert the onset of dementia by years.
Scientists have pointed out the ‘cold-shock’ protein for the first time after examining swimmers at Parliament Hill’s lido (pictured). The sport implies that they regularly become hypothermic – with their temperature dropping to 34C (93F)
It is recommended that the protein may be able to delay or halt the decline of dementia sufferers – conceivably giving important extra years – by conserving the synapses in their brains.
Causing humans to be hypothermic to see if they would generate the ‘cold-shock’ protein brought the team with several ethical challenges.
However, after listening to a report on BBC Radio 4 Today, lido swimmer Martin Pate reached out to them to say his team frequently got hypothermic – down to 34C (93F) – and would be promising subjects for the study.
The swimmers were assessed for the protein during the winters of 2016, 2017 and 2018, alongside members of a Tai Chi club practising by the pool – who were the controls.
The team discovered high levels of the ‘cold-shock’ protein in the swimmers.
But the compound wasn’t seen in higher quantities in the martial art club members who never entered the pool.
Professor Giovanna Mallucci, who directed the research, told the BBC the results verified that humans, just like hibernating animals, can generate the protein.
But she advised that cold water immersion is clearly not an apparent dementia treatment because the dangers of dropping temperatures could far surpass the benefits.
She explained that the goal is to find a drug that can activate the generation of this protein, which could protect the brain.
‘If you slowed the progress of dementia by even a couple of years on a whole population, that would have an enormous impact economically and health-wise,’ Professor Mallucci said.