Pesticide linked to Alzheimer's

A pesticide banned in the U.S. in the 1970s may possibly lead to Alzheimer’s development. DDT and its byproduct DDE were found in high levels in the blood of Alzheimer patients compared to those without Alzheimer’s—four times higher to be exact. Also, people with the highest levels of DDE who also carried a high-risk Alzheimer’s gene scored lower on a test of mental abilities than those who did not carry the gene.

In the study, published in the journal JAMA Neurology, researchers found that exposing brain cells in a petri dish to DDT or DDE led to the increased production of a protein that’s involved in forming amyloid plaques, a plaque associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

The researchers analyzed blood samples from 86 Alzheimer’s patients and 79 without Alzheimer’s. The individuals were separated into three groups depending on their DDE level. The findings revealed the possibility of having Alzheimer’s was four times greater for the group with the highest DDE levels compared to the group with the lowest DDE levels. The DDE levels in the blood also matched the DDE level in the brain, a postmortem examination in 11 patients showed.

The researchers concluded that DDT exposure could be an environmental risk factor for developing Alzheimer’s disease. They said further testing, however, is necessary to confirm that conclusion.

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