Are we sanitizing our way to Alzheimer’s and other diseases?

HandSanitizerIn modern societies’ efforts to make our surroundings germ-free we may be blocking most of the ‘good’ bacteria from our lives, say researchers at Cambridge University.

With paved roads, clean drinking water, sterilized surfaces, little contact with soil and animals and easy (too easy) access to numerous antibiotics, we have come a long way from most of man’s history alongside animals and microbes that developed and strengthened immune systems.

Dr. Molly Fox, lead author of research conducted by the Cambridge Biological and Anthropology division, said earlier studies linked higher stroke risk with the disappearance of the vital gut bacteria called H. pylori.

In addition, previous studies referring to what has come to be known as the ‘hygiene hypothesis’, suggested relationships between cleaner environments and a higher risk of allergies and autoimmune disorders.

“We believe we can now add Alzheimer’s disease to this list,” Dr. Fox said.

The Cambridge researchers agree with earlier studies that attributed immune weaknesses to poorly developed white blood cells that depend on beneficial bacteria to help the body fight foreign invaders.

As has been frequently noted, gut health is so closely related to brain health, that it is basically the body’s ‘second brain.’

In their analysis of 192 countries, researchers found that many countries with higher rates of infectious diseases, such as China, had lower rates of Alzheimer’s and dementia.

For example, Finland and Iceland had the highest Alzheimer’s rates of the 192 countries, while China ranked 112. The U.S. is number three (5.3 million), with Sweden and the Netherlands rounding out the top five.

The cost for treating Alzheimer’s patients in the U.S. is expected to top out at $226 billion in 2015. In the U.S., North Dakota has the highest rate of Alzheimer patients, while Nevada has the lowest.

The UK is number 14, Canada 16, Australia 17, Israel 32, Italy 35—you get the idea.

The complete list of rankings can be viewed at

But modern sanitation methods don’t explain everything about the modern development of Alzheimer’s and other brain disorders.

There are no doubt many factors, such as overload of pharmaceutical drugs, food quality, lack of exercise and vitamin D/sunshine. And of course, numerous environmental chemical toxins.

Amazingly, the modern societies of Japan and Singapore, along with all the Mideast countries except Israel, have practically non-existent Alzheimer rates ranking at the bottom of the list in the 180s, while Russia ranks 154.

The Cambridge study was published in the journal Evolution, Medicine and Public Health.


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