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The U.S. and Canada Have Among The Highest Death Rates In The World For Alzheimers

Many scientists have believed that Alzheimer's disease (AD) is passed through the family line and is genetic due to the possession of a particular set of genes, however research is showing the incidence is more correlated to excitotoxins and heavy metals which play a critical role in the development of several neurological disorders, especially in North America.

Not Genetic

If AD was purely genetic, we would expect four natural consequences to be true:

  1. Global spatial distribution would be random and uniform;
  2. There would not be an earlier and rapidly increasing onset of the disease;
  3. Migration would not alter the incidence of this disease; and
  4. Changes in lifestyle would have no impact on someone with the disease.

Human genes do not change quickly, they remain constant over long periods of time which means that if AD was genetic we would not expect to see fast increasing incidences of the disease in younger people.

However, the opposite is true, we are seeing the rates of AD increasing faster than the population is aging (almost to epidemic proportions), particularly in the USA, Canada, England, Norway and Australia. We often hear the term ‘early onset Alzheimer's' which must mean other factors are causing the disease, rather than genes.

If AD was genetic, migration would not alter the incidence of the disease. However, the evidence again supports the opposite as being true, e.g. Japanese Americans who leave Japan and move to the US have far higher prevalence rates than Japanese remaining in Japan; and we see double the incidence of AD in African Americans (i.e. Nigerians) than seen in Nigerians remaining in Nigeria.

North America Shows Among The Highest Death Rates

More and more people in countries including the United States and Canada with increasing older populations, are suffering from the debilitating dementia of Alzheimer's disease. A study by IHME researchers, “Global, regional, and national age-sex specific all-cause and cause-specific mortality for 240 causes of death, 1990-2013: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013,” found high-income or Western countries are not alone in facing growing burdens of Alzheimer's -- a larger proportion of the global population than previously thought has been dying from this disorder.

Alzheimer's is one of the most common diseases that cause dementia, which leads to a loss of cognitive abilities, including reasoning, thinking, and remembering. Alzheimer's is an irreversible, progressive brain disease that eventually destroys the ability to carry out the most basic tasks of daily living.

Of the 5.3 million Americans with Alzheimer's, an estimated 5.1 million people are age 65 and older, and approximately 200,000 individuals are under age 65 (younger-onset Alzheimer's).

Almost two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer's are women. Of the 5.1 million people age 65 and older with Alzheimer's in the United States, 3.2 million are women and 1.9 million are men.

Although there are more non-Hispanic whites living with Alzheimer's and other dementias than people of any other racial or ethnic group in the United States, older African-Americans and Hispanics are more likely than older whites to have Alzheimer's disease and other dementias.

The risk of Alzheimer's increases with age. This means that as people around the world live longer, the proportion of the population with Alzheimer's grows as well. In countries with larger aging populations -- many high-income countries, and increasingly middle-income countries as well -- Alzheimer's is gaining a more prominent presence among causes of disability and death.

The number of Americans with Alzheimer's disease and other dementias will grow each year as the size and proportion of the U.S. population age 65 and older continue to increase. By 2025, the number of people age 65 and older with Alzheimer's disease is estimated to reach 7.1 million -- a 40 percent increase from the 5.1 million age 65 and older affected in 2015. By 2050, the number of people age 65 and older with Alzheimer's disease may nearly triple, from 5.1 million to a projected 13.8 million, barring the development of medical breakthroughs to prevent or cure the disease.

The number of dementia deaths worldwide has more than doubled since 1990 -- from about 795,000 in 1990 to nearly 1.7 million in 2013. In 1990, Alzheimer's ranked 44th globally among causes of premature death; in 2013, it had risen to 29th.

The numbers of deaths from Alzheimer's and other dementias are not declining in any country. As populations in every country age, we can expect that the proportion impacted by dementia will continue to grow. Governments will have to prepare for the expanding need for services and programs for people with dementia.

Metal Toxicants A Culprit

The locus ceruleus (LC) is a nucleus in the pons (part of the brainstem) involved with physiological responses to stress and panic. It is the principal site for brain synthesis of the hormone and neurotransmitter norepinephrine (noradrenaline).

It has been known for many years that toxicants (i.e., poisons that are put into the environment or human body by human activity) that block the uptake of noradrenaline can damage the LC of experimental animals.

A recent finding that a metal toxicant, inorganic mercury, selectively enters the cytoplasm of human LC neuron has prompted researchers to investigate how these toxicants cause many of these CNS disorders.

The topographical distribution of cell loss in the LC varies in Alzheimer’s disease. The type of pathology differs as well, with LC cell loss in Alzheimer’s disease, gliosis in multiple sclerosis, and neuronal shrinkage in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. These topographical and pathological differences suggest that toxicants affect LC neurons in different ways.

Genetic variation is unlikely to account for the variations in incidence of neurodegenerative disorders that have been described between city and country living, or for increases or decreases of disease incidence over time. Here environmental factors are more likely. The LC would be subjected to different toxicants in the city versus the country, and would be exposed to different levels of pollutants over time. Geographic differences in toxicant exposure could interact with other environmental factors in a disorder such as multiple sclerosis, where a reduction in sunlight and vitamin D levels at increased latitudes has been implicated.

Herbicides, pesticides, vaccinations, medications and industrial exposures may be the most effective approach likely to define groups with known exposures to certain toxicants and then look for genetic variants (either single nucleotide, copy number, or epigenetic) in the biological pathways that normally protect individuals from these toxicants. An analysis could then be undertaken to see if these genetic variants are more common in people within these defined groups who have neurodegenerative disorders.

Vitamin D Critical

People with higher intakes of vitamin D may be at a lower risk of developing Alzheimer's disease

The highest average intakes of the sunshine vitamin were associated with a 77% decrease in the risk of Alzheimer's, report researchers in the The Journal of Gerontology: Medical Science.

The build-up of plaque from beta-amyloid deposits is associated with an increase in brain cell damage and death from oxidative stress. This is related to a loss of cognitive function and an increased risk of Alzheimer's, the most common form of dementia and currently affects over 13 million people worldwide.

The potential brain benefits of the vitamin may also be linked to the nutrient content of vitamin D-rich foods, such as fish. "In particular, there is reasonably good evidence that eating fish reduces the risk of dementia including Alzheimer's, however sunshine is an equally critical source.

While our bodies do manufacture vitamin D on exposure to sunshine, the levels in some northern countries are so weak during the winter months that our body makes no vitamin D at all, meaning that dietary supplements (Vit D3) are seen by many as the best way to boost intakes of vitamin D and protect against Alzheimer's and hundreds of other diseases.

Ensuring optimal intake of key nutrients such as vitamins and antioxidants throughout one’s lifetime may be an important wellness strategy to help prevent brain diseases and prevent the decline in our cognitive abilities.


Dr. Marianna Pochelli is a Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine specializing in the treatment of disease through superfoods and herbal strategies. She actively promotes detoxification, colon cleansing, and a vegetarian lifestyle using living foods as a platform to health.

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