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Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Diabetes Linked Directly to Environment

July 9, 2009

A new study by researchers at Rhode Island Hospital found a substantial link between increased death rate from certain age-related diseases and increased exposure to nitrates, nitrites and nitrosamines in processed foods and in the environment.

The researchers note that the role of nitrosamines has been well-studied, and their role as a carcinogen has been fully documented. The investigators propose that the cellular alterations that occur as a result of nitrosamine exposure are fundamentally similar to those that occur with aging, as well as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Type 2 diabetes mellitus.

Suzanne de la Monte, M.D., M.P.H., of Rhode Island Hospital, who is also a professor of pathology and lab medicine at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, led the researchers. “We have become a ‘nitrosamine generation,” she was quoted as saying.

The authors state that the time course of the increased prevalence rates of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and diabetes cannot be explained on the basis of gene mutations. They instead mirror the classical trends of exposure-related disease. Because nitrosamines produce biochemical changes within cells and tissues, it is conceivable that chronic exposure to low levels of nitrites and nitrosamines through processed foods, water and fertilizers is responsible for the current epidemics of these diseases and the increasing mortality rates associated with them.

“All of these diseases are associated with increased insulin resistance and DNA damage,” Dr. De la Monte said. “Their prevalence rates have all increased radically over the past several decades and show no sign of plateau. Because there has been a relatively short time interval associated with the dramatic shift in disease incidence and prevalence rates, we believe this is due to exposure-related rather than genetic etiologies.”

Nitrites and nitrates belong to a class of chemical compounds that are harmful to humans and animals. More than 90 percent of these compounds that have been tested have been determined to be carcinogenic in various organs. They are found in many food products, including fried bacon, cured meats and cheese products as well as beer and water. Exposure also occurs through manufacturing and processing of rubber and latex products, fertilizers, pesticides and cosmetics.

The findings indicate that while nitrogen-containing fertilizer consumption increased by 230 percent between 1955 and 2005, its usage doubled between 1960 and 1980, which just precedes the insulin-resistant epidemics the researchers found. They also found that sales from the fast food chains and the meat processing companies increased more than 8-fold from 1970 to 2005, and grain consumption increased 5-fold.

“If this hypothesis is correct, potential solutions include eliminating the use of nitrites and nitrates in food processing, preservation and agriculture; taking steps to prevent the formation of nitrosamines and employing safe and effective measures to detoxify food and water before human consumption,” Dr. De la Monte said.

SOURCE: Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, July 2009




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