DDT exposure may increase Alzheimer's risk
Ingesting DDT may increase the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease in old age, according to a study published on January 27 in the medical journal JAMA.
Now banned in the U.S., DDT is a pesticide still used in other parts of the world to control pests and disease-carrying mosquitoes. DDT flushed into river systems is ingested by aquatic organisms. The compound builds up significantly in organisms that are higher up in the food chain.
"[DDT] hangs out in the environment in exceptionally long periods of time, and it can accumulate in the food chain, where the top predators, such as fish, birds and humans, can actually get higher doses [of DDT] than the original amount that was put in [the environment]," study lead author Jason Richardson, associate professor in the department of environmental and occupational medicine at Robert Wood Medical School at Rutgers University, said in a Fox News report. "And not only do we have a legacy contamination, it's still used around the world both legally and illegally."
Humans metabolize DDT to DDE in the liver. The study conducted by Richardson's team analyzed blood samples collected from 86 Alzheimer's patients. Their study found that 74 of the patients showed highly elevated levels of DDE and that, on average, four times more DDE is found Alzheimer's patients' blood than in healthy subjects' blood.
Further studies conducted with brain cells suggested that DDT and DDE increase the production of proteins that lead to the development of Alzheimer's.
Alzheimer's is an irreversible neurodegenerative disease and the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S.
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