Category: Science


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.

  • Will Wilkin

    To avoid the estrogen-like endocrine disruptors potentially leeching out of plastic water bottles, I bought a big stainless steel canister to fill with my well water to stay hydrated working all day on roofs. But there was no certification of the exact alloy actually used in China to manufacture this canister. Are the metal water bottles so widely sold potentially a source of the heavy metal toxicity described in this article?

    • Donna Allgaier-Lamberi

      We have gone back to old-fashioned cast iron pans as the best available option at this time. A very high quality stainless steel (All Clad) is our other pan of choice.There are no “100% guarantees” we can only do the best we can with the technology that is available to us. Detoxing is the only other option out there.

  • lynette mayo

    I have ‘through the roof copper’. I am getting functional medicine treatment for it. Likely birth control pills, lost needing surgery IUD! do you have any articles about copper at toxic levels on the brain of a 76 year old! so far l’m as sharp as a whiz!

  • Donna Allgaier-Lamberi

    My 73-year-old husband has been diagnosed with fronto temperol lobe dementia by his Functional Medicine Neurologist. His “Executive Functions” and the decision making area(s) of his brain seem to be most affected at this time as well as his memory center. Working with a Functional Medicine Physician we have discovered that he has high lead levels (off the chelation chart in fact) as well as a genetic mutation that does now allow his bodies pathways to detox adequately on its own. While this might be an isolated, non-scientific example this provides “anacetdotal” (sorry I can see that this is spelled wrong!) evidence that high levels of toxins do effect brain functioning.

  • Jenny

    I faced memory issues after contracting a virus three years ago. Comprehensive Metabolix testing revealed an excessively high level of xylene. I’ve since been detoxing, and the virus ran its course. What the source of xylene is, though, remains to be answered. It is found in wet paint, dry-erase markers, and cleansers used by farmers for equipment. I have not found the source, but detoxing (through various means) has helped considerably!
    If anyone is familiar with xylene, please comment!

  • Kristofer Young

    Dr. Perlmutter, what do you advise as the most effective means of measuring body burden of these metals?

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