Lead Exposure Can Be a Risk Factor for Alzheimer’s Disease: ICMR

Lead is a common pollutant found in commonly used materials like paints, cosmetics, batteries, glass, and some toys.

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Mind It
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Lead is a common pollutant found in commonly used materials like paints, cosmetics, batteries, glass, and low-grade toys.
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Research conducted at the Indian Council of Medical Research - National Institute of Nutrition (ICMR-NIN) has established a possible link between lead exposure and Alzheimer’s disease. This adds to the bulk of evidence for the adverse health impact of this common pollutant, found in materials like paints, cosmetics, batteries, glass, and low-grade toys.

In a press release dated 13 January, the national council said, “Environmental exposure to this toxic heavy metal is associated with many pathophysiological dysfunctions of the central nervous system.”

Led by senior scientist Dr Suresh Challa, the research discovered the molecular mechanism by which lead-induced toxicity leads to the development of Alzheimer’s disease through in vitro studies.

“In fact, Alzheimer’s Disease has a complex pathophysiology which involves initially; formation of beta amyloid plaques and tangles in the brain. In addition, oxidative stress and inflammation are known to be involved in the progression of the disease, with loss of memory and neuronal cell death. In this scenario, our study investigated the basic molecular mechanism behind the involvement of lead in Alzheimer’s disease.”
Dr Suresh Challa

The scientists also concluded that maternal exposure to lead during pregnancy can cause developmental reprogramming, leading to a higher risk and early onset of Alzheimer’s later on in the child’s life.

“Since lead exposure is an important public health concern, the current findings could be another piece in solving the puzzle towards understanding the intracellular mechanism of Alzheimer’s disease. Such findings may as well help in developing preventive and management strategies for elderly.”
Dr. R Hemalatha, Director, ICMR-NIN

On the other hand, the studies found therapeutic potential in natural compounds such as catechins, especially epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) present in foods like green tea, guava leaves, apples, cherries, pears, blackberries which possess antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and metal chelant properties. It was concluded that EGCG is “protective against lead toxicity and can effectively decrease neuronal cell death.”

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