Does Living in Cleaner Environments Increase Cases of Alzheimer’s?

Posted on Sep 29, 2013

show a link between cleaner living conditions and increased rates of Alzheimer’s disease and other disorders involving dementia.

The study, performed by Cambridge University’s Biological Anthropology division, drew from data collected by the World Health Organization (WHO), found a correlation between higher rates of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in wealthier countries with excellent sanitation and water quality, such as Switzerland, France, the United Kingdom and Iceland.

While the cleaner living conditions found in wealthier countries may protect citizens from exposure to many microbes, viruses and bacteria that cause many diseases, it is possible that such environments may also prevent people from developing robust immune systems. This is believed to increase the chances of developing autoimmune disorders and severe allergies.

Though the controversial idea, known as the hygiene hypothesis, isn’t a new one in medical science, associating it with Alzheimer’s and other dementia-related diseases is uncharted territory.

According to lead study author and Cambridge Alumna, Molly Fox, “The ‘hygiene hypothesis,’ which suggests a relationship between cleaner environments and a higher risk of certain allergies and autoimmune diseases, is well established. We believe we can now add Alzheimer’s to this list of diseases.”

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