Researchers: Better hygiene leads to higher risk of Alzheimer's

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Better hygiene in developed countries correlates with a higher risk of developing Alzheimer's, researchers have discovered.

British and North American investigators examined conditions in more than 190 countries to determine whether the presence of pathogens and better hygiene led to more cases of Alzheimer's.

They found that in countries where citizens aren't exposed to as many dangerous microbes, the number of people with the dementia-inducing disease increases. Less-stressed immune systems lead to greater risk of Alzheimer's in later years, they found.

For instance, areas with clean drinking water, such as the United Kingdom and France, have a 9% higher Alzheimer's rate than countries where fewer than half the people have clean water access, such as Kenya and Cambodia.

Additionally, countries with lower rates of infectious diseases, such as Switzerland and Iceland, have 12% high rates of Alzheimer's, compared to countries with high rates of infectious diseases.

The investigators adjusted their findings with the disability-adjusted life year to eliminate the effect of premature death rates.

Because countries won't be giving up their clean drinking water any time soon, the researchers hope their findings will be used to predict the potential societal burden the disease could bring in coming years. “Epidemiological forecasting is important for preparing for future healthcare needs and research prioritization,” study authors state in their conclusion.

The findings appear in the current issue of Evolution, Medicine, &Public Health.