Every senior caregiver understands what an important role healthy diet plays in the treatment or prevention of Alzheimer’s disease. That healthy diet plan is comprised of the main food groups, with a particular attention to fruits and vegetables. Last month, however, scientists announced a frightening link that was uncovered between the pesticide known as DDT and the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
Published in the journal JAMA Neurology, the small study claims researchers found that people who developed Alzheimer’s generally had more of the DDT metabolite, known as DDE, in their blood serum than a control group of participants without the deadly form of dementia.
Jason Richardson, lead author of Rutgers-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, said that the DDE metabolite can remain in the body for years after exposure. “When you are looking at DDE levels, it is basically a snapshot of a person’s lifetime exposure to DDT as well as DDE in the environment,” he said in a press release.
While the team had initially expected to see a small link between Alzheimer’s disease and DDE levels, they were actually quite stunned to discover the correlation was much more dramatic. DDE levels found in the blood serum of all 86 patients of the Alzheimer’s group were four times greater than the normal amount, when compared to participants in the healthy control group. While the study does not claim that DDT exposure is solely responsible for the debilitating disease, it does indicate that high levels of DDE make a person more likely to contract Alzheimer’s.
This discovery is both exhilarating and frightening. It’s exhilarating when new research helps the scientific community take steps toward understanding a disease that, up to this point, has completely stumped the brightest minds of our time. It’s frightening because DDT was one of the most popular pesticides of its time, exposing millions of people to the toxic ingredients it contained. The United States actually used DDT from the early 1940s until it was finally banned in 1972, when the disastrous effect on human health and wildlife could no longer be ignored.
Despite the dangers, farmers in other parts of the world still use the deadly DDT to protect their crops. The United States continues to import metric tons of produce from other countries, a bulk of which makes its way to local supermarkets. As such, an estimated 80 percent of the population has “measurable levels” of DDE coursing through our veins. Luckily, most of those levels don’t warrant alarm.
As with all new Alzheimer’s breakthroughs, more extensive research will need to be done to truly understand the link between DDT and dementia. For now, seniors and caregivers should likely err on the side of caution when it comes to possible DDT exposure. This is best done by thoroughly washing each and every piece of produce purchased or utilizing a produce cleaning spray.