Can Air Pollution Cause Alzheimer’s?

Previous studies have established link between lifestyle and Alzheimer’s disease: not only do genetic variants, depression, coronary artery disease, and low educational achievement remain risk factors linked to Alzheimer’s, our lifestyle and environment could increase the risk of Alzheimer’s as well.

In a recent development, a new study from the participants of a ‘women’s Health Initiative Memory Study‘ published in the journal Translational Psychiatry confirms air pollution from power plants and cars may lead to dementia in older women. The researchers studied the correlations between exposure to air pollution and dementia, and tested the link between pollution and dementia using a mouse model.

According to Professor Caleb Finch at the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology and co-senior author of the study:

Microscopic particles generated by fossil fuels get into our body directly through the nose into the brain.

Cells in the brain treat these particles as invaders and react with inflammatory responses, which over the course of time, appear to exacerbate and promote Alzheimer’s disease.

Although the link between air pollution and Alzheimer’s disease is a new scientific frontier, we now have evidence that air pollution, like tobacco, is dangerous to the aging brain.

Data from 3,647 participants, who lived in 48 states, age 65-79, and, with no dementia were analyzed. Women in high pollution areas were 81% more likely to have cognitive decline, and 92% more likely to develop dementia, researchers confirmed after adjusting for actors such as ethnicity, health, socioeconomic status, and geographic location.

Using a mouse model, researchers then tested the effects of pollution on the brain. The female carriers of the genetic variation that are tested to increase the risk of dementia, were in a period of 15 weeks exposed to air polluted by power plants and cars.

Read also: Gut Bacteria May Play A Role In Alzheimer’s Disease

The exposed mice accumulated 60% more amyloid plaques in their brains, plaques linked to Alzheimer’s.

Our study has global implications as pollution knows no borders, said Finch, holder of the ARCO/William F. Kieschnick Chair in the Neurobiology of Aging.

The study’s authors profess an increase at risk of developing Alzheimer’s may be formed when air pollution interact with a genetic predisposition to the disease.


Caleb Finch, Jiu-Chiuan Chen, Air pollution may lead to dementia in older women. Published Jan. 31 in the Nature journal Translational Psychiatry.
Air pollution may lead to dementia in older women.Ful doc. 

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