Many Factors Driving Brain Disease

Approximately 40 million people around the world already have Alzheimer’s disease and the numbers are rising rapidly. Since the disease barely existed a century ago, Alzheimer’s and several related diseases seem to fit the definition of a global epidemic.

Alzheimer’s disease deaths in the U.S. alone increased 68 percent between 2000 and 2010. Similar explosions have happened in essentially every country around the globe. The boom started primarily in developed countries, but the developing world, including China, is catching up quickly.

Meanwhile, deaths from other major diseases, including heart disease, diabetes and cancer decreased significantly. Most developed countries are making progress on all health fronts, except for Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

This new E-book explores Alzheimer’s as part of a protein epidemic. It makes several critical points and asks some challenging questions about a form of killer protein known as a prion (pronounced PREE-on).

Deadly prions are contagious and unstoppable. They migrate, mutate, multiply and kill (man or beast) with unprecedented efficiency. They are definitely behind some forms of neurodegenerative disorders in mammals, including humans. A Nobel-Prize-winning scientist claims that Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s diseases all are prion diseases. In addition, prions are behind a deadly epidemic among deer, elk and moose in North America and South Korea called Chronic Wasting disease (CWD). It’s no been found in reindeer in Norway.

Alzheimer's disease transmissible

We usually associate the word protein with muscle growth and cell generation. Ironically, some proteins can reverse roles and kill brain cells. These renegade proteins might cause damage to the nervous system and the entire body as well. We just don’t know enough about prions to take any chances. Based on what we do know, any risk is unacceptable.

These corrupt proteins might even play a role in autism. A study in Canada is underway. We might even find that some proteins play roles in cancer development. The prion protein, in particular, behaves somewhat like cancer cells—they both corrupt their neighbors. They both spread and kill. A key difference is that prions keep going and going. They can survive outside of a body in a very harsh environment. They can lurk in soil, on a feed trough, or on a dental instrument forever—waiting for their next victim. If we manage these protein predators based on what we do and don’t know, we can start managing the pathways and overall health risks to humans, livestock and wildlife. If we insist on additional studies, before taking actions, the problems will get much worse.

Protein science is a fresh arena and we still have many more questions than answers. However, we know enough to connect some dots around proteins and the various threats that they pose. Ironically, most of these protein-based diseases exploded in the late 1900s. Have we created “Pandora’s Lunchbox” in the industrial age?

As the following chart illustrates, not all countries are experiencing the same prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease. The North Atlantic countries of Finland, Iceland and Sweden have some of the highest rates of dementia in the world. Why?

Why is Finland’s dementia rate 39 percent higher than runner-up Iceland’s? If dementia is a random or sporadic condition, there should be little or no variance in the incidence from country to country or region to region. In reality, the differences and coincidences are astounding.

The United States and other developed countries also lead the list for Alzheimer’s rates. Meanwhile, the undeveloped countries across Asia, Africa and South America have the lowest rates. Alzheimer’s is already on the rise in China and japan, however. Many are attributing the rise to the Westernization of their diets.

What causes these regional variations? Could it be an unhealthy or contaminated diet in these countries? Could it be contaminated drinking water? Or is it another source of regional environmental contamination?

Country            Alzheimer’s/Dementia per 100K)

Finland                                 34.9

Iceland                                 25.1

United States                       24.8

Sweden                                21.5

Netherlands                         21.4

Switzerland                          20.0

Cuba                                   19.6

Chile                                   19.6

Andorra                              19.4

Spain                                  18.7

Norway                               18.6

Uruguay                              17.5

Denmark                             17.4

United Kingdom                 17.1

France                                16.6

Canada                               16.0

Australia                             15.3

New Zealand                      15.2

Belgium                              14.6

Pakistan                              14.3

Bhutan                                13.4

Malta                                  13.0

South Korea                       12.0

Ireland                                11.8

Hungary                              11.5

Visit to find your country’s Alzheimer’s/dementia rate.

sewage sludge land application

For some reason, women contract Alzheimer’s disease at a higher rate than men. White and black women have the highest rates, while Hispanic men and women seem to have the lowest rates of Alzheimer’s. Why?  As you will see in the book, we know that many of the ways that Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (the deadliest form of dementia) can spread. We should treat all forms of dementia the same and tighten safeguards on all dementia patients and their environment.

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Earth News

Earth News is a division of Crossbow Communications. Earth News is a syndicated environmental news service. The company covers a variety of health and environmental issues, including biodiversity, chronic wasting disease, climate change, deforestation, endangered species, global warming, neurodegenerative disease, neurotoxins, wildlife conservation and more.