Over the past decade, medical professionals and scientists have been searching for any clues that show links between disease and environmental toxins. While some diseases are definitely caused by genetic factors, many others have simply baffled doctors. Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease fall into this category. A lot has been learned about what happens when someone gets either of these medical conditions, but not a lot is known about what triggers them and causes them to take hold in the body in the first place.
Scientists generally agree that there is unlikely to be a single clear cause of Alzheimer’s. For this reason, many suggest Alzheimer’s is the result of a combination of inter-related factors, including genetic factors and environmental influences that could include anything from previous head trauma to educational level, to experiences early in life. A new growing body of research is also helping to identify various “lifestyle factors,” such as dietary habits, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and exposure to environmental toxins.
As for Parkinson’s, scientists have figured out that the brain cells that control movement rely on a chemical called “dopamine.” Dopamine is manufactured in an area of the brain called the “substantia nigra.” In Parkinson’s, dopamine-producing cells in the substantia nigra are lost. In most cases, no one knows why. Some genetic mutations have been discovered, suggesting that Parkinson’s may run in some families. However, new clinical trials are suggesting that environment plays a larger role than inheritance. In fact, the general medical consensus is that genetic factors are dominant only in Parkinson’s that appears before age 50.
So what’s really happening to usher in these two diseases? For some answers, consider the results from a recent clinical trial performed by Spanish researchers. These scientists decided to conduct a review to find which risk factors were most prominent when it came to Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s. Here’s what they found:
— Evidence consistently suggests that a higher risk of Parkinson’s is associated with pesticides.
— A higher risk of Alzheimer’s is associated with pesticides, hypertension, high cholesterol levels in middle age, high levels of homocysteine, smoking, traumatic brain injury, and depression.
— There is some evidence suggesting that higher risk of Parkinson’s is associated with high milk consumption in men, high iron intake, chronic anemia, and traumatic brain injury.
— There is some evidence suggesting a higher risk of Alzheimer’s is associated with high aluminum intake through drinking water, excessive exposure to electromagnetic fields from electrical grids, obesity in middle age, excessive alcohol consumption, and chronic anemia.