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Environmental factors key drivers in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, says new report

Environmental factors are key drivers in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, according to the authors of a new report, Environmental Threats to Healthy Aging, released on 23 October. Importantly, the report demonstrates that the risks for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s can be dramatically reduced.

It offers the most comprehensive review of the currently available research on the lifetime influences of environmental factors on Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, two of the most common degenerative diseases of the brain. These influences include common dietary patterns, toxic chemical exposures, inadequate exercise, socio-economic stress and other factors. These influences can begin in the womb and continue throughout life, setting the stage for the later development of neurodegenerative as well as other chronic diseases.

Furthermore, environmental factors also seem to contribute to other chronic illnesses referred to in the report as the “Western disease cluster” - diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome.

“It is clear from these findings that our activities in the areas of food and agriculture, energy, chemical use, and social organization are key drivers in the abnormal loss of neurological function in older people throughout the modern world,” says co-author Jill Stein, MD, Greater Boston Physicians for Social Responsibility.

The report authors provide recommendations so that individuals, families, communities, and societies can take action at all levels and move towards healthy living and healthy aging. This is especially important because the population over the age of 65, which is highly vulnerable to chronic disease, is expected to significantly increase in the future. With that increase will come a dramatic escalation of chronic diseases unless steps are taken now to reduce the risks.

The full report is published jointly by Greater Boston Physicians for Social Responsibility and the Science and Environmental Health Network and is available online at:

Written on 30 October 2008.