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For a while now researchers have been finding that certain environmental chemical exposures are linked to the development of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), which is commonly called Lou Gehrig's disease. Frequent exposure to pesticides and heavy metal and VOC exposure in solvents (e.g., in woodworking) are linked to ALS.

A recent study found that storing chemicals such as gasoline, kerosene, gasoline-powered equipment, lawn care pesticides, paint, and woodworking chemicals in an attached home garage is also linked to a higher risk for ALS. These are toxic chemicals that are volatile - get into the air.

The researchers felt that not only did the persons with ALS have a history of exposure by working with the chemicals, the chemicals also leach into the air when stored in the home (the attached garage). Every time the door to the garage is opened, the chemicals in the garage air rush into the home.

Earlier studies found higher amounts of pesticides in people with ALS, as well as faster disease progression. Certain pesticides show up repeatedly in studies, including 2,4-D, glyphosate, carbaryl, and chlorpyrifos. Note that 2,4-D is in popular feed and weed products (and was in Agent Orange), and glyphosate is in the commonly used Roundup.

ALS is a progressive and fatal neurodegenerative disease. There is progressive loss of motor neurons, the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that control voluntary muscle movement and breathing.

From Science Daily: Chemicals stored in home garages linked to ALS risk

Over the last decade, researchers at University of Michigan continue to find that exposure to environmental toxins -- from pesticides used in agriculture to volatile organic compounds in the manufacturing industry -- is linked to the development of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS. ...continue reading "Pesticides and Other Chemicals Stored in Home Garages Linked to ALS Risk"

Human brains are getting larger each decade. That's the conclusion of researchers conducting the large Framingham Heart study which has now gone on for 75 years.

Between 1999 and 2019 the researchers conducted MRIs on participants born from the 1930s to the 1970s, with participants having an average age of 57. They found that each decade the brain volume steadily increased, with the brains of people born in the 1970s having 6.6% more volume than those born in the 1930s. Brain surface area increased about 15% in that time.

Brain structures such as white matter, gray matter, and hippocampus (a brain region involved in learning and memory) also increased in size over time. This increase in brain volume clearly shows that environmental factors (e.g., nutrition, education, social), and not just genetic factors, influence brain size.

The researchers thought that a larger brain volume, which signifies brain health,  might be protective against Alzheimer's disease. And that this could explain why the percentage of people (the incidence) of Alzheimer's disease and dementia has gone down over time.

From Medical Xpress: Human brains are getting larger: That may be good news for dementia risk

A new study by researchers at UC Davis Health found human brains are getting larger. Study participants born in the 1970s had 6.6% larger brain volumes and almost 15% larger brain surface area than those born in the 1930s. ...continue reading "Human Brains Are Getting Larger Over Time"

It turns out that some commonly found chemicals in household products are actually hazardous to our brain health. A recent study found that these chemicals have a harmful effect on brain cells called oligodendrocytes. The harmful chemicals are quaternary compounds (found in some disinfectant products and personal care products) and some flame retardants found in household items such as furniture and electronics.

Oligodendrocytes are cells in the central nervous system that form the myelin sheath (a layer that covers and protects nerve cells) in the brain and spinal cord. Damage to the myelin sheath underlies some neurological diseases, such as multiple sclerosis.

The researchers felt that exposure to these chemicals that damage oligodendrocytes may be a risk factor for neurological diseases. In other words, you don't want to damage these cells. Pregnant women (developing baby) and children (developing brains!) are especially vulnerable.

Bottom line: Avoid disinfecting or cleaning supplies that say they contain "quaternary compounds" and try not to buy products containing flame retardants. Check labels!

From Science Daily: Common household chemicals pose new threat to brain health, study finds

A team of researchers from the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine has provided fresh insight into the dangers some common household chemicals pose to brain health. They suggest that chemicals found in a wide range of items, from furniture to hair products, may be linked to neurological conditions like multiple sclerosis and autism spectrum disorders. ...continue reading "Some Common Household Chemicals Have A Harmful Effect On the Brain"

There may be new treatments on the horizon for the most aggressive and deadly brain cancer known as glioblastoma. The median survival is less than one year, so this is very exciting news.

Two studies, using slightly different approaches, were tested on a very small number of patients (3 in one study, 6 in the other). Both approaches used the patient's own modified T-cells (part of immune system) to attack the brain tumor. Initially there was amazing shrinkage of the tumors, but unfortunately this effect was only temporary for most.

The ultimate goal is to make treatments that have long-lasting effects. By the way, glioblastoma is the brain cancer that killed President's son Beau, as well as Arizona Senator John McCain.

[Click on the article link to see amazing MRI scan images of brain tumor shrinkage.] From Medical Xpress: A new strategy to attack aggressive brain cancer shrank tumors in two early tests

Scientists took patients' own immune cells and turned them into "living drugs" able to recognize and attack glioblastoma. In the first-step tests, those cells shrank tumors at least temporarily, researchers reported Wednesday. ...continue reading "Promising New Approach For Treating Deadly Brain Cancers"

There has been medical debate over whether taking a daily multivitamin supplement has any benefits. Well, a third large study says YES - taking a daily multivitamin slows age-related memory loss and cognitive aging in older adults (60 years and older).

The researchers estimate that a daily multivitamin slowed cognitive aging the equivalent of 2 years when compared to persons not taking a multivitamin.

From Science Daily: Third major study finds evidence that daily multivitamin supplements improve memory and slow cognitive aging in older adults

By 2060, according to the Alzheimer's Association, nearly one in four Americans will be in an age bracket at elevated risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimer's disease unless interventions can help preserve cognitive function before deficits begin. ...continue reading "Study Finds Multivitamins May Slow Memory Loss In Older Adults"

For a while now it has become clear to some scientists that the prevailing view of Alzheimer's disease (buildup in the brain of 2 substances: amyloid and tau) isn't correct. Instead, some researchers feel that there is growing evidence that viruses are implicated as a cause of Alzheimer's and other neurodegenerative diseases (e.g., vascular dementia, ALS, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis).

A recent study linked 22 viruses to the development of Alzheimer's disease and other neurodegenerative diseases (e.g., vascular dementia, ALS, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis) within 15 years. The strongest association was for viral encephalitis and later developing Alzheimer’s diseaseInfluenza with pneumonia was associated with 5 neurodegenerative diseases.

The researchers also found a link between infection with Epstein Barr and later developing multiple sclerosis (this confirmed other recent research).

Other studies find that vaccinations (influenza, pneumonia, shingles) are associated with lower rates of Alzheimer's disease. This has also been found with antivirals (e.g., for herpes simplex).

From Science Alert: A Study of 500,000 Medical Records Links Viruses to Alzheimer's Again And Again

A study of around 500,000 medical records suggested that severe viral infections like encephalitis and pneumonia increase the risk of neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. ...continue reading "Study Finds Link Between Viruses and Alzheimer’s Disease"

We all know cigarette smoking is bad for our health (for example, higher rates of heart disease, respiratory disease, and cancer), but it also has an effect on our brains. Yup. Research shows it's associated with a decrease in brain size (volume)!

The researchers found that while all levels of daily smoking was associated with a decrease in brain volume, heavy smoking was associated with an even greater decrease in brain size (volume). This is a dose-response relationship.

By the way, this strong association between a history of daily smoking and overall brain volume, gray matter volume, and white matter volume of the brain was also found in other studies.

They also found that even if you stop smoking, you don't get back that missing brain volume. But at least it'll stop further cigarette smoking shrinkage. The researchers point out that this could explain why smoking is linked to increased rates of age-related cognitive decline and Alzheimer's. Yikes!

From Science Daily: Smoking causes brain shrinkage, study finds

Smoking shrinks the brain, according to a study by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. The good news is that quitting smoking prevents further loss of brain tissue -- but still, stopping smoking doesn't restore the brain to its original size. Since people's brains naturally lose volume with age, smoking effectively causes the brain to age prematurely, the researchers said. ...continue reading "Smoking and Shrinking of the Brain"

Many children and adults have been diagnosed with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and been prescribed medications as a result. Medications that are taken daily for years. The big question is: Are there long-term health effects from ADHD medications?

A large study looking at long-term use of ADHD medications found an increase in cardiovascular disease, particularly hypertension and arterial disease, when compared to persons with ADHD who did not take medications. The longer the medications were taken, the higher the risk for hypertension and arterial disease.

In the 14 year follow-up, the researchers found that each 1 year increase of ADHD medication was associated with a 4% increased risk of heart disease (cardiovascular disease). The risk was higher for stimulant medications (e.g., methylphenidate, lisdexamfetamine) than for non-stimulant medications.

From Medical Xpress: Long-term ADHD medication use associated with increased cardiovascular disease

Research led by the Karolinska Institutet, Sweden, has found an increased risk of cardiovascular disease associated with long-term ADHD ( attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder) medication use. Specific associations with different medications and dosages were connected to hypertension and arterial disease, with a higher risk observed for stimulant medications. ...continue reading "ADHD Medications and Increased Risk of Heart Disease"

Unfortunately, chronic wasting disease (CWD) is continuing to slowly spread through the United States and Canada. It has now been confirmed that a mule deer died of CWD in Yellowstone Park last month.

Chronic wasting disease has been slowly spreading in mule deer and elk in Wyoming since first detected in1985. It has been detected in 30 states so far!

CWD is a prion disease that can occcur in cervids (deer, elk, moose, reindeer) similar to "mad cow disease" (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) in cattle and Creutzfeldt-Jakob's disease in humans. It is an always fatal neurologic disease . There is no vaccine, treatment, or cure for the disease.

CWD should be of concern to all hunters or people who eat wild-caught game (deer, elk, moose, reindeer). So far no infections have been found in humans, but health officials urge hunters to test killed deer and elk for the disease, and to avoid eating meat from infected animals.

Excerpts from the National Park Service Nov. 15 news release: Mule deer tests positive for chronic wasting disease in Yellowstone National Park

 Yellowstone National Park and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) recently confirmed the presence of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in the carcass of an adult mule deer buck found near Yellowstone Lake in the southeastern section of the park. This is the first confirmed positive detection of the disease in Yellowstone National Park. ...continue reading "Chronic Wasting Disease Now Detected in Yellowstone Park"

For years research has linked some pesticides and toxic chemicals with the development of Parkinson's disease. Recent research from the military base Camp Lejeune strongly suggests that one possible cause of PD is the toxic chemical trichloroethylene (TCE). The drinking water at Camp Lejeune was contaminated with high levels of TCE and perchloroethylene (PCE) for 35 years at 280 times safety standards.

In the past century, TCE (and the similar chemical PCE) has had numerous industrial, consumer, military, and medical applications. For example, it is used in dry cleaning clothes, removing paint, as a degreaser, carpet cleaner, and engine cleaner. It even was used to produce  decaffeinated coffee in the past! It's still used today - much less in the US, but increasing in China.

The problem is that TCE is environmentally persistent, and contaminates soil, air, and water. Vapors from underground water and soil contamination seep out into homes, schools, and workplaces. It is known to be carcinogenic (cancer causing) and associated with numerous cancers and other health harms, including birth defects.

The neurologist Ray Dorsey (at Univ. of Rochester), who was part of a team looking at TCE and Parkinson's disease (see post), was recently interviewed about the research linking TCE and PD. One finding: there has been a major increase in Parkinson's disease in the past decades, making it the "world's fastest-growing brain disease".

What you can do: Dr. Ray Dorsey (and fellow researchers) feel that PD is preventable. (their book). He recommends that everyone, but especially all persons with Parkinson's disease, try to avoid pesticides as much as possible. For example, use a carbon filter for drinking water, eat organic foods, don't put pesticides on the lawn, etc.

Excerpts from Dr. Subramanian (Professor at UCLA) interview with Dr. Ray Dorsey, from the medical site Medscape: Is Most Parkinson's Disease Man-Made and Therefore Preventable?

Subramanian: I wanted to first highlight some of the work that has come out and gotten a large amount of media attention around Camp Lejeune and specifically trichloroethylene (TCE) as a cause of Parkinson's, and one of the environmental toxins that we talk about as something that is in pretty much everywhere. This paper came out, and you wrote a commentary in JAMA Neurology as well. Perhaps we can summarize the paper and its findings. ...continue reading "The Case For Some Toxic Chemicals Causing Parkinson’s Disease"