Pesticide exposure linked to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease

Researchers throughout the world are working at a fast pace to find the causes and an effective treatment for Alzheimer’s disease (AD), but so far they have been mostly frustrated. Last week though, as reported in the journal Neurology, there was an important conclusion about a possible cause of this disease: pesticide exposure.

Scientists believe that whether or not a person develops AD depends on a combination of three factors: genetic, lifestyle (for example how much you exercise and challenge your mind), and environmental. So it’s a complex formula that determines whether or not a person develops this dementia, and this current research points to one measure we can all take to decrease our risk—lower our exposure to pesticides and similar chemicals.

The researchers in this study took blood samples from 86 people with AD, and 79 people of the same age and profile but without AD. They found, surprisingly, that the level of DDE, which is a metabolite of the pesticide DDT, was nearly four times higher in the group with AD.

This does not prove that the pesticide exposure helped cause AD, but it is strongly suspected. Pesticides have already been implicated in causation of other degenerative neurologic diseases.

For example, last year a large Italian study, which analyzed 89 previous global studies on Parkinson’s disease, estimated that people exposed to solvents and pesticides —including insect and weed killers, and those used in agriculture—suffer an increased risk of developing Parkinson’s disease by 33 to 80%.

How solvents and pesticides work to damage the brain is not certain, but in the Neurology study, it seems these chemicals induce certain brain cells to produce more beta-amyloid protein, which has long been implicated in Alzheimer’s disease.

You might think, especially if you live in a city, that your risk of pesticide exposure is low, but one nasty fact about pesticides is that pesticide traces can often be found in our body tissues many years after exposure.  In the United States, DDT has been banned since 1971, but despite that, now 40 years later, 75 to 80% of the individuals in this study had measurable levels of the DDT metabolite in their blood.

Brasil strictly limited the use of DDT many years later than the U.S., so likely, many people living here have DDT residue in their system. And even though DDT has been sharply restricted, there are still hundreds of other chemicals used in agriculture and even by us in the home that could be harmful to our nervous system, increasing our risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

In our next post we will discuss which vegetables tend to have the highest pesticide residue, and which are the safest, and what measures you can take at home to minimize the risk to you and your family.

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Read also in ProcuraMed:

 “Alzheimer’s disease” diagnosed, but it is not…

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Esta postagem também está disponível em: Portuguese (Brazil)