Alzheimer’s disease is one of the few that still has scientists stumped. Though studies have found various potential causes and influencers of the disease, there has been no strong consensus regarding the cause of the disease or a way to treat and cure it. Researchers have discovered yet another potential environmental cause for the disease, though, in a recent study.
The pesticide DDT may be partially responsible for the development of Alzheimer’s, according to the study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). Though the pesticide DDT is no longer used in the United States, as it was effectively phased out in 1972, it continues to be used around the world.
Researchers at Rutgers University evaluated 86 individuals who had been diagnosed with late-onset Alzheimer’s disease and 79 healthy individuals. The patients were from Texas and Georgia and had an average age of 74 years old.
What scientists found is that those with Alzheimer’s had DDT and DDE (a metabolite of DDT) levels that were, on average, four times higher than the healthy individuals. They also found that high levels of DDE resulted in a fourfold risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
When asked to explain the presumed mechanism behind the brain interaction, Jason Richardson, leader of the study, explained that he believes DDE could encourage growth of amyloid proteins. Amyloid proteins form plaques and disrupt proper brain function, leading to Alzheimer’s. The plaques are usually the tell-tale sign of Alzheimer’s disease.
It could be also be a combination of genes and the pesticide, because though the higher risk was found in the Texas sample, it was not seen in the sample of Georgia patients. This leads researchers to believe that it might not be the presence of DDT alone, but rather an interaction between the pesticide and an already predisposed genetic structure.
Because the study only compared small samples of people, researchers caution that a broader look at the subject needs to be done before the findings can be considered conclusive. This study has sparked interest, though, and many scientists are encouraging deeper research to be done on this subject.
5 million people in the United States currently suffer from Alzheimer’s and it ranks as the 6th leading cause of death in the nation. As the number of people with dementia increases, it has become a high priority to discover a cure or treatment as soon as possible. The number of people with dementia is expected to triple by 2050, according to estimates.
Alzheimer’s disease is a frightening disease that is full of unknowns, but researchers have discovered several foods to eat and habits to practice in order to help prevent the disease. Read more about eating to prevent dementia or find out more about the link between Alzheimer’s and long term care.