Exploring connections between lead poisoning and Alzheimer's disease and related dementias

Submitted by Norm Roulet on Thu, 04/12/2007 - 00:19.


The war against the crisis of lead poisoning is being fought in Northeast Ohio by activists and professionals in a wide range of fields and disciplines. That reality was beautifully demonstrated today when noted neurologist and gerontologist Peter Whitehouse, M.D., Ph.D., and his associate Danny George, M.Sc., presented a lecture on "environmental toxins and late-life dementia: a life span perspective", exploring connections between lead poisoning and Alzheimer's disease and related dementias, and suggesting the need for an integrative ecological model, concluding "better take care of your neurons at age 2". The two presenters have co-authored a book titled "The Myth of Alzheimer's" that will be released later this year.

Alzheimer's is in its 100th year as a named "disease" associated with degenerative conditions of the brain. While the diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease may not be universally applied, it is apparent at the global level rates of all dementias are on the rise. This has led to a "race for a cure", but what is Alzheimer's and how it may be treated is more complex than that. While there is much research underway on genetic analysis, Peter stresses the enormous variability of conditions and progressions of Alzheimer's - it is not just one condition, and it is part of the continuum of aging... hence we need to develop a broader understanding and analytic framework.

Peter does not believe Alzheimer's will be cured with a silver pill but believes that his work with intergenerational learning and story telling indicates creating a lifelong learning and memory-exercising lifestyle for all ages has the greatest benefit for helping seniors to retain mental capacity. And, Peter believes, rather than hoping for medical cures, an ecological, life span, preventative approach to Alzheimer's is most appropriate.

Danny George presented related insight on such a new framework applying developmental programming theory. This sees brain aging as a continuum in people's lives and notes environmental insults can cause cellular effects that become maladaptive. This considers an area of health analysis referred to as FeBAD - Fetal Basis of Adult Disease. In other words, consider what has happened life-long to the now aging population exhibiting accelerating Alzheimer-like conditions.

Peter described the overall crisis of dementias among the aging populations as a silent epidemic and considered the relationship between lead and cognitive development. While it is well known the harm lead exposure causes the very young, the threat goes beyond early years of life. Studies have found lifetime lead exposure dulls thinking in older adults through a retained cumulative dose - this may lessen cognitive reserves of neurons and dendrites, and alter expression of genes.

Peter and Danny proposed a different biological perspective, reinventing aging with recognition that what you do throughout your life will define your end of life, bridging worlds of pediatrics and geriatrics. They propose there's not a whole lot you can do about your genes but there is a lot you can do about environment.

The host for this session, Dorr Dearborn, M.D., brought up the issue of rising rates of Autism, and that some experiments indicate a connection to a short stage of vulnerability at the embryonic stage. Peter points out the world is a more poisoned place, and that is a critical silent epidemic that will be quite a bit worse in the future.

The conclusion of the talk was that the time for studies is over - our society needs to embrace a precautionary principle and there are actions we should be taking to protect humanity from soiling our nests. In informal discussions following the lecture, those who attended reflected on the sad state of our environment and the harm that has caused humanity. So often we hear such concerns from "environmentalists" but somehow such a diagnosis holds more weight when presented by healthcare providers - it is a shame this lecture was preached to the converted... I hope the message spreads more broadly in our community.

For more insight on the impact of lead poisoning on society, be sure to attend the free Greater Cleveland Lead Advisory Council Annual Meeting this Friday, April 13, from 7:30 AM - 12:00 PM at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History - information found here!

More on Lead and Alzheimer's

I saw a report on the evening news about possible connections between Lead and Alzheimer's - the story is on YouTube here. As mentioned above, NEO's Peter Whitehouse has been considering this relationship for some time... Cleveland is certainly a perfect place to study these interrelated diseases, with the high level of lead poisoning and local expertise on  Alzheimer's... visit Peter's "The Myth of  Alzheimer's" website for the latest news and thought on that important subject...

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Research on mice links fast food to Alzheimer's

 Fri Nov 28, 2008 1:44pm EST

LONDON (Reuters) - Mice fed junk food for nine months showed signs of developing the abnormal brain tangles strongly associated with Alzheimer's disease, a Swedish researcher said on Friday.The findings, which come from a series of published papers by a researcher at Sweden's Karolinska Institutet, show how a diet rich in fat, sugar and cholesterol could increase the risk of the most common type of dementia."On examining the brains of these mice, we found a chemical change not unlike that found in the Alzheimer brain," Susanne Akterin, a researcher at the Karolinska Institutet's Alzheimer's Disease Research Center, who led the study, said in a statement."We now suspect that a high intake of fat and cholesterol in combination with genetic factors ... can adversely affect several brain substances, which can be a contributory factor in the development of Alzheimer's."Alzheimer's disease is incurable and is the most common form of dementia among older people. It affects the regions of the brain involving thought, memory and language.While the most advanced drugs have focused on removing clumps of beta amyloid protein that forms plaques in the brain, researchers are also now looking at therapies to address the toxic tangles caused by an abnormal build-up of the protein tau.In her research, Akterin focused on a gene variant called apoE4, found in 15 to 20 percent of people and which is a known risk factor for Alzheimer's. The gene is involved in the transport of cholesterol.She studied mice genetically engineered to mimic the effect of the variant gene in humans, and which were fed a diet rich in fat, sugar and cholesterol for nine months -- meals representing the nutritional content of fast food.These mice showed chemical changes in their brains, indicating an abnormal build-up of the protein tau as well as signs that cholesterol in food reduced levels of another protein called Arc involved in memory storage, Akterin said."All in all, the results give some indication of how Alzheimer's can be prevented, but more research in this field needs to be done before proper advice can be passed on to the general public," she said.(Reporting by Michael Kahn; Editing by Catherine Bosley)

From: http://www.reuters.com/article/scienceNews/idUSTRE4AR48G20081128


Just thinking....

 ...if you combine people who already have lead levels with a diet that consists mainly of fast food, what is the result of these combined factors???

Cardiovascular actions of lead and relationship to hypertension

At a recent GCLAC steering committee meeting I was enliughtened to learn of the direct relationship between lead poisoning and hypertension, and heart failure, as well documented in this 1988 paper (abstract below) and many other places... and link that to a bad diet... and consider lead poisoning is found to relate to Alzheimer's type problems, which may be compounded by bad diet... so if living in a high lead poisoning environment eating largely high cholesterol and fat diets doesn't fry your heart, it'll fry your brain. Nice population control strategy...

Chronic and acute lead poisoning cause overt, clinical symptoms of
cardiac and vascular damage with potentially lethal consequences.
Morphological, biochemical, and functional derangements of the heart
have all been described in patients following exposure to excessive
lead levels. Disturbances in cardiac electrical and mechanical activity
and postmortem evidence of morphological and biochemical derangements
of the myocardium have all been reported following excessive exposure
to lead in humans. In addition, signs of vascular degeneration,
abnormal vascular smooth muscle function, and altered vessel compliance
have been described in humans chronically and acutely exposed to toxic
lead levels. Similar cardiovascular complications have been detected
following excessive lead exposure in experimental animals. Myocarditis,
electrocardiographic disturbances, heightened catecholamine
arrhythmogenicity, altered myocardial contractile responsiveness to
inotropic stimulation, degenerative structural and biochemical changes
affecting the musculature of the heart and vasculature, hypertension,
hypercholesterolemia, atherosclerosis, and increased vascular
reactivity to alpha-adrenergic agonists have been among the reported
cardiovascular disturbances linked to lead poisoning. Less certain are
the cardiovascular effects of subclinical lead poisoning. Although
controversial, chronic low-level lead exposure has been linked to
hypertension and other cardiovascular disturbances in both clinical and
experimental studies. In general, it can be concluded that lead over a
wide range of exposure intensities can induce significant changes in
the function of the cardiovascular system. Evidence points to the
involvement of multiple sites of action. Cardiac and vascular sites, as
well as sites within the central nervous system, have all been
implicated in the sequelae of cardiovascular effects. The exact
pathogenic mechanisms that underlie the actions of lead in the
cardiovascular system, however, have yet to be elucidated definitively.

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Gregory Petsko: The coming neurological epidemic

Biochemist Gregory Petsko makes a convincing argument that, in the next 50 years, we'll see an epidemic of neurological diseases, such as Alzheimer's, as the world population ages. His solution: more research into the brain and its functions.  


stay stimulated

One of Petsko's recommendations for preventing Alzheimer's Disease's cognitive effects is to "stay mentally stimulated."

The topic for Monday's Science Cafe at Great Lakes Brewing Center just happens to be Deep Brain Stimulation, with guests from the Cleveland Clinic.

That might not be the stimulation he's referring to, but it's definitely being explored as a possible treatment for neurological disorders. (If I had stuck around at CleveMed, I might be working right now on a project to use DBS for Parkinson's Disease -- in collaboration with CCF's Dr. Jerrold Vitek, one of Monday's speakers.)

Anyway, go drink some Christmas Ale and get yourself stimulated: Science Cafe: Deep Brain Stimulation.

yeah and read the comments

I did as suggested in the comments and googled "marijuana parkinson's". Yes indeedy, we gotta keep the drug war going here in the US. It is a real job provider. It keeps the cradle to prison pipeline flowing.

Meanwhile in Switzerland:

** Swiss approve prescription heroin**

Swiss voters overwhelmingly back a change in health policy that would provide prescription heroin to addicts.

Peter B. Lewis - are you reading this?

Deep brain stimulation

Turn on, tune out, drop out...am I the only one experiencing flashbacks, here? 

If last night's airing of Smothered on WVIZ is any indicator, we are reliving the sixties.  I only wish I could get my hands on whatever deep brain stimulation keeps Tommy and Dick Smothers going...

This sounds like my kind of science :)