A new study indicates a link between a pesticide found in food and Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Jason Richardson and co-workers at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and Emory University reported in the January 2014 issue of JAMA Neurology that the pesticide
dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, or DDT, may lead to the formation of amyloid plaques, the abnormal proteins that accumulate in the brains of Alzheimer’s victims.
This pesticide was widely used in the United States until the early 1970s, when it was banned. But remnants of DDT remain in the environment and continue to be consumed in fish, meat, and dairy products. In some countries where malaria is prevalent, DDT is still used.
Heat and light cause DDT to break down to a similar substance, DDE, which can last for years in the environment and the body. The scientific team found that elevated blood levels of DDE were associated with an increased risk for Alzheimer’s. Volunteers who had a genetic risk appeared to be more susceptible to the effects of DDE.
The researchers also found that both DDT and DDE increased blood levels of a protein associated with higher brain amyloid. Even though the U.S. Geological Survey monitors soil and water samples to keep track of DDT levels, this new study suggests that we many need more rigorous oversight and control over this toxin.
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