Environmental toxin increases chance of Alzheimer’s: Study

Environmental toxins are known to cause respiratory problems. However, according to a new study, these toxins may also lead to Alzheimer’s disease.

According to scientists at the Institute for EthnoMedicine, a non-profit medical research organization, and the University of Miami Brain Endowment Bank, environmental toxin may up the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders.

The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, says that exposure to toxin beta-Methylamino-L-alanine (BMAA) may be linked to formation of beta-amyloid plaques and brain tangles which are characteristics of Alzheimer’s disease. According to news-medical.net, the study is the stepping stone for further research in Alzheimer’s disease, ALS and Parkinson’s disease.

The researchers found that the diet of Chamorro villagers on the Pacific Island of Guam contained environmental toxin beta-Methylamino-L-alanine (BMAA) and the villagers suffer from dementia and symptoms similar to Alzheimer’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and Parkinson’s disease. The reason behind neurodegenerative disease in these people has not been found yet and the role of environmental factors is poorly understood. However, scientists suspect an association between BMAA, a neurotoxin found in some harmful algal blooms, and neurodegenerative illness.

Lead author Paul Alan Cox said the findings point out that chronic exposure to BMAA can trigger Alzheimer’s-like brain tangles and amyloid deposits. And that this is the first time that researchers have been able to successfully produce brain tangles and amyloid deposits in an animal model through exposure to an environmental toxin.

Other facts

Alzheimer’s disease leads to death of brain cells which causes dementia and other neurological problems. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia or memory loss. It has been found that in the U.S., every 67 seconds someone develops Alzheimer’s, which features among the top 10 reasons of death in the U.S.  Sadly, it cannot be prevented, cured or slowed.

A research presented at the Alzheimer’s Association’s Annual Conference in Washington in 2015 said, “At the age of 65, women have a one in six chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease compared with a 1 in 11 chance for men.”

According to a medicalnewstoday.com report, early onset of familial Alzheimer’s disease can be attributed to genes. This kind of Alzheimer’s strikes typically between 30 and 60 years and affects people with a family history of the problem. The Alzheimer’s Association says that as Alzheimer’s is not so common in younger age, doctors take time to diagnose this type which can be “a long and frustrating process.” In the U.S., around 5.3 million people are suffering from Alzheimer’s disease of whom 5.1 million are aged 65 and older.

In a 2015 report on alzheimers.org, James Pickett, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Society, said, “No treatments are currently available that slow down the progress of Alzheimer’s – a disease which is caused by the proteins, amyloid and tau, which clump together and cause damage in the brain.”

Another sad aspect of this disease is that no medicine has been found to treat it. The available medicines only reduce the symptoms or slow down the progress of the disorder.

A study published in December 2015 in the Nature Medicine revealed that antidepressant Rolipram could help in retarding the progress of the problem. The scientists said the drug was originally developed as an antidepressant, but was not used as its side effects can arrest the progress by enhancing the brain’s “waste disposal.” The study said drugs during the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease may prevent dementia and decrease brain damage.

Medicalnewstoday.com says that in the next 10 years, the number of seniors with the condition is expected to touch 7.1 million and by 2050, around 13.8 million older adults will be afflicted with it.

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