Heavy Metals – A Risk for Alzheimer’s?
For years we’ve been seeing scientific literature describe the various health risks associated with having elevated levels of (potentially) toxic heavy metals. The reason this information is so important is because it opens the door to a discussion about both prevention and treatment for the associated diseases.
Certainly, one disease that draws interest from both perspectives is Alzheimer’s disease. Indeed, while the actual cause, or more appropriately causes, of this dreaded disease remains hidden, there’s been discussion over the years that having higher levels of various heavy metals may be playing a role.
To explore this relationship, a team of Chinese and American researchers reviewed a vast amount of scientific research to determine if there exists any valid relationship between higher blood levels of various heavy metals and the risk for developing Alzheimer’s. Their comprehensive meta-analysis focused on aluminum, mercury, cadmium, and lead.
Their results are fascinating and clearly important. The researchers revealed a significant positive relationship between elevated serum levels of aluminum, cadmium and/or mercury with Alzheimer’s risk. Interestingly, higher lead was actually associated with decreased risk for the disease.
The authors then went deep into a discussion as to the various potential mechanisms whereby these toxic metals might be damaging to brain cells, and for those with a scientific background this section of the paper is certainly worth reading.
The authors concluded:
…the results of our meta-analyses indicate that the circulatory aluminum, mercury, and cadmium levels are significantly increased in AD patients as compared to controls. Given the great patient, family, and socio-economic burden of AD, in the future, steps should be taken to minimize human exposure to these environmental toxic metals to reduce the risk of developing AD. Further studies are needed to examine the role of toxic metals in the development of AD.
Their admonition in terms of exposure should be taken seriously. Where this and other supportive literature will lead us in terms of treatment is an evolving story that absolutely deserves our attention.