(NaturalNews) Alzheimer's disease is a neurodegenerative condition that adversely affects cognitive functioning. With about 44.4 million people worldwide displaying some type of dementia disease, Alzheimer's is the most common disease of its type. While the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease can vary, some of the more common ones include a deterioration of reasoning and thinking skills as well as difficulty remembering.
Causes of Alzheimer's disease
For many patients who present with this disease, pinpointing the exact cause can be difficult. Some studies suggest that about half of the cases identified today can be linked to genetic causes. In other cases, though, there is not a clear genetic link which leads scientists to look for other causes.
Environmental makes a difference
Scientists today are taking a closer look at the role environmental factors play the in the short- and long-term health of people of all ages. Exposure to pesticides, as well as some metals and solvents have been shown to have a detrimental effect on people. In fact, recent research is pointing to the disturbing possibility that late onset Alzheimer's disease could be caused by exposure to dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane DDT.
Banned, but still affecting the environment
Invented during the 1940s as a way to prevent diseases, such as typhus and malaria, that are carried by insects, DDT was among the first of the modern pesticides. Its use was controversial almost from the start, and the United States banned it in 1972. Some countries, however, still use the pesticide in their agricultural industries today.
Effective pest control, but at a cost
Though DDT was deemed to be very effective as a pesticide, eventually it became evident that its effects on the environment, humans and wildlife were devastating. It has long been known that the chemical causes reproductive problems in people; it is also thought to be behind some incidences of cancers. More recently, researchers have found elevated levels of dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene (DDE), a byproduct of DDT, in a small, but noteworthy, number of patients who present with symptoms of late onset Alzheimer's disease.
Study finds alarming results
Researchers at Rutgers University and Emory University compared the blood of 86 people diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease with that of 79 healthy people. Both groups were similar in age and background. The results of their testing showed that the levels of DDE in the blood of the Alzheimer's patients was about 3.8 times higher than that of the healthy group.
Though the results in this study were not clear-cut - some healthy people showed high levels of DDE while some people with Alzheimer's disease showed low levels - and the disease was in existence before the use of DDT, researchers concluded that exposure to the chemical could be increasing the chances of some people to shoe symptoms of late onset Alzheimer's disease.