People, families and communities across the state and the nation are holding Walks to End Alzheimer's. As a result of rapidly advancing scientific research within the U.S. and a host of other nations, we now know enough to Run to End Alzheimer's.
Not someday, but soon. Not never, but starting right now.
The human body and brain evolved over centuries and eons in a natural environment. Gradually. Then industrialization hit, and better living through chemistry, biochemistry, metallurgy, electronics, radiology, technology, and nanotechnology took flight.
Unfortunately, our cells, membranes, nerves, and genes cannot keep up. They recognize new things as invaders, and try to fight them off. Autoimmune reactions, inflammation, and chronic diseases are the result. We read about big words like beta amyloid, demyelination, and oxidative stress, which are different ways of saying that the ways things work inside us go awry.
The germ theory of disease works for germs, but it does not explain the root of many of today’s health problems. It turns out the keys to the castle lie in understanding that today’s big chronic, devastating, costly diseases – like Alzheimer’s – are the result of nature, nurture, and exposures, both toxic and pathogenic. Pathogens are micro-organisms that can cause disease. Toxins are harmful chemicals, substances and metals that affect the body, brain, cells, and organs. They do so by messing up basic biochemistry, cell membranes, enzymes, and the like.The disease processes in the brain resulting from heavy metals poisoning and from chemical exposures are fairly similar. How our bodies, brains, cells and organs react to toxic substances varies by the substance, varies by our genes, and varies by their interactions over time (epigenetics). It is as if the instruments in a symphony are run over by a fleet of trucks, then they don’t work and sound so good anymore. Some stop playing altogether. Having multiple types of exposures makes it synergistically worse.
One of the biggest hidden health issues of our time is mercury toxicity from mercury amalgam dental fillings. These fillings have long been proven to off-gas mercury vapors in the presence of heat and abrasion. Not only when fillings are placed, but when they are removed, and also when you chew, grind teeth, drink hot liquids, shower, sauna, and jar your jaw in accidents, sports, and falls. The levels at which off-gassing happens is greater than previously thought.Research at multiple universities has demonstrated that exposure of normal brain tissue to mercury causes the same “footprint” of biochemical abnormalities as found in Alzheimer’s disease brain tissue. It shows that at very low concentrations, mercury and only mercury among the heavy metals, induces the disintegration of the “natural structure” that holds a neuron in place, leading to neurofibrillary tangles - a well-known diagnostic hallmark of Alzheimer’s. Since mercury vapors escape from amalgam fillings over time, and 80 percent on average enters the body, exposure would exacerbate the symptoms of anyone suffering from Alzheimer’s.
Is the problem increasing? Yes, markedly. The U.S. National Health and Nutritional Evaluation Surveys of 2000 and 2006 have shown that 2 percent and 30 percent, respectively, of American women have detectable levels of inorganic mercury in their blood. This 15-fold increase in women with inorganic mercury (not from fish) indicates that the overall exposure to mercury is increasing in mothers and putting our infants at risk for neurological diseases.
There is also hard medical, scientific and toxicological evidence that mercury is especially toxic to those with the ApoE4 gene, who do not clear mercury well. Sadly, but not surprisingly, ApoE4 is associated with higher rates of Alzheimer’s disease, and lots of other diseases as well. Researchers in the U.S. and other nations have found elevated mercury levels in the brains and cerebrospinal fluid of Alzheimer’s victims. Many Alzheimer’s victims show classic signs of mercury poisoning, but these signs are no longer recognized by most doctors.
As we unlock the fundamental causes of Alzheimer’s disease, we can unlock the keys to health and recovery. The body and brain is amazingly resilient when it is not under toxic assault. We can develop ways for those with the gene type that doesn't clear mercury well to better clear it. This is important, because mercury poisoning is the thief that keeps on taking. With the wrong gene type, mercury will stay in your body, cells and brains long after your fillings have been removed, replaced or fallen out.
We will be far better off, as people, as families, and as a nation, if we focus on health, reduce the impact of toxins, and let our bodies, brains and cells get healthy again.
We need regular, periodic testing for heavy metals and toxins as part of regular check-ups. We all experience lifelong, repeated, multiple, and multipoint exposures, so this just makes sense. We need mandatory reporting of adverse health impacts, to learn the scope of the problem.Where there are safer alternatives, such as for mercury dental amalgam, we should use them, and stop the nonsense of pretending amalgam is hard, safe and inert for all time – as long as it is in the mouth. We know it is a hazardous substance before it goes into the mouth, and after it comes out. Does the tooth fairy keep it safe and harmless in our teeth?
The FDA should immediately follow the recommendations of its own Scientific Advisory Panel in 2010 to restrict use of amalgam in young children, pregnant women, and people with a known “sensitivity” or “allergy” to mercury. Better yet, based on the growing medical, scientific and toxicological studies in the U.S. and a host of other countries, ban it, as Norway, Denmark and Sweden did in 2008-2009, with the EEC now on a track to follow suit.
This disease is devastating our citizens, our families, our nation. Let’s run, not walk, to end Alzheimer’s.
Boyd Haley is President of CTI Science, board member of the International Academy of Oral Medicine & Toxicology, and professor emeritus of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Kentucky. Laura Henze Russell is the founder and principal of Hidden River Health Challenge.