More evidence that pollution might increase dementia risk

  • A new study in rodents has found a link between traffic-related air pollution and a higher risk of age-related dementia.
  • In the study, exposure to traffic-related air pollution accelerated Alzheimer’s disease characteristics in animals who express the risk gene and in wild-type rats.
  • The researchers concluded that traffic-related air pollution might decrease the time to Alzheimer’s onset and accelerate disease progression.

growing number of studiesTrusted Source suggests that air pollution may be associated with a higher risk of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that around 50 millionTrusted Source people globally have dementia.

Alzheimer’s disease, which is an irreversible, progressive neurological condition that causes memory loss and cognitive decline, is the most common form of dementia. It accounts for an estimated 60–80% of dementia cases.

A new study by researchers at the University of California, Davis adds to the body of research suggesting that there may be a link between traffic-related air pollution and an increased risk of developing age-related dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.

For their study, which now appears in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, the researchers set up a rodent vivarium near a well-used traffic tunnel in Northern California. They did this to replicate the pollution that humans might have exposure to while in traffic.

Senior study author Dr. Pamela Lein, a professor of neurotoxicology at the University of California, Davis, told Medical News Today about a key difference between this research and other efforts.

She said, “Because epidemiologic studies can provide evidence regarding the strength of association between exposure and outcome but cannot establish a cause-effect relationship, there has been a need for experimental animal studies to confirm causality.”

“However,” added Dr. Lein, “the criticism of much of the published animal data to date is that the exposures used have not faithfully mimicked human exposures. [This is because the] animals have been exposed to a subset of components that make up traffic-related air pollution and/or because animals have been exposed to very high concentrations of traffic-related air pollutants, often for relatively short periods of time.”

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