Air pollution: the road to Alzheimer’s disease?
By: Manfred Eggersdorfer, Professor for Healthy Ageing, University Medical Center Groningen
- A new study has assessed the associations between proximity to a main road and diagnoses of dementia, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis
- Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive, neurodegenerative disease, and the leading cause of dementia, for which there is currently no cure
- Research has found evidence for the role that certain nutrients, including vitamins E, C and D, in decreasing new incidences of Alzheimer’s disease
A newly published longitudinal study has assessed the associations between proximity to a main road and diagnoses of dementia, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis.1 Data was collected from residents of Ontario, Canada, from 2001 to 2012. Results found that individuals living near heavy traffic were 12% more likely to be diagnosed with dementia in their lifetime. Air pollution is made up of a mixture of gases and particles, including particulate matter (PM). Inhaling polluted air, especially air containing fine PM of 2.5 micrometers in diameter and smaller (PM2.5), can lead to a wide range of health issues. This study supports a wide range of research that also observed the negative impacts of air pollution on brain health.2,3
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive, neurodegenerative disease, and the leading cause of dementia, for which there is currently no cure.4 While there are a number of non-modifiable risk factors, such as genetic factors, age and gender, this study highlights the increased risk posed by modifiable lifestyle factors. 5,6 With over 80% of the world’s population living in regions with air pollution levels higher than the World Health Organization’s air quality guidelines, air pollution is a prevalent global issue.
Acting against Alzheimer’s with nutrients
Research has found compelling evidence for the role that certain nutrients, including vitamins E, C and D, in conjunction with other important factors can play in decreasing new incidences of Alzheimer’s disease.7 Increasing the intake of essential micronutrients is a simple, but effective, method of supporting cognitive performance and reducing the risk factors associated with Alzheimer’s disease, such as oxidative stress. While air pollution is a wider issue affecting the majority of the population, the dietary supplements industry can help to combat some of the negative effects on public health.
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Alzheimer’s disease: the leading cause of dementia
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 H. Chen et al ‘Living near major roads and the incidence of dementia, Parkinson's disease, and multiple sclerosis: a population-based cohort study’, The Lancet, 2007 http://thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(16)32399-6/fulltext, (accessed 30 May 2017)
 J. Chen and J Schwartz ‘Neurobehavioral effects of ambient air pollution on cognitive performance in US adults’ Neurotoxicology, 2009 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19150462 (accessed 12 June 2017)
 L. Calderón-Garcidueñas et al ‘Air pollution, cognitive deficits and brain abnormalities: a pilot study with children and dogs.’ Brain and Cognition, 2008 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18550243 (accessed 12 June 2017)
 Alzheimer’s Research UK, ‘Alzheimer’s disease’ 2016 http://www.alzheimersresearchuk.org/about-dementia/types-of-dementia/alzheimers-disease/symptoms/ (Accessed 30 May 2017)
 Alzheimer’s Association ‘2017 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures’ https://www.alz.org/documents_custom/2017-facts-and-figures.pdf (Accessed 30 May 2017)
 J. Vina and A. Lloret, ‘Why women have more Alzheimer's disease than men: gender and mitochondrial toxicity of amyloid-beta peptide.’ Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 2010 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20442496 (Accessed 30 May 2017)
 W. Xu et al, ‘Meta-analysis of modifiable risk factors for Alzheimer's disease’ Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry, 2015 http://jnnp.bmj.com/content/86/12/1299 (Accessed 30 May 2017)
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