About 5.8 million people in the United States suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. The disease is rare in people under the age of 65. In the last 20 years, however, the age at which the disease is first diagnosed has fallen. Some cases are now detected between the ages of 30 and 40.
Although Alzheimer’s disease was discovered in the early 20th century, the exact causes still remain difficult to identify. Less than 1 percent of cases are thought to be hereditary, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
Recently, a researcher examined possible environmental causes. In a paper published in Current Alzheimer’s Research, Martin L. Pall, professor emeritus of biochemistry and medicine at the University of Washington, developed the theory of a link between electromagnetic fields and the onset of the disease at an early stage. These fields are increasingly present in our daily lives through the electronic devices we use.
Effects on intracellular calcium levels
The link between these electromagnetic fields and Alzheimer’s disease relates to calcium: for almost 25 years scientists have been studying the effects of this chemical element on the disease. Studies have shown that an excess of calcium in cells can cause Alzheimer’s disease. The accumulation of calcium in cells leads to several changes in the brain, two of which are conducive to the development of the disease. First, it leads to an increase in aggregates of amyloid precursor proteins, which then form the amyloid plaques in the brain. It can also lead to various less specific neurodegenerative changes, such as those in tau protein, oxidative stress, and inflammation. EMFs act on our cells by activating voltage-gated calcium channels (VGCCs). Their activation causes a rapid increase in intracellular calcium levels. Consequently, exposure to EMF causes changes that lead to an excess of intracellular calcium,” says the study’s author.
An increase in EMF exposure
Electronically generated electromagnetic fields (EMFs) are widely used for wireless communication and produce strong electric and magnetic waves. Previous studies in animal models have shown their effects on intracellular calcium levels and on the brain. “The electromagnetic fields act through time-varying electrical spikes and magnetic forces,” explains Professor Pall. These spikes have increased dramatically with every increase in pulse modulation produced by smarter cell phones, smart meters, smart cities, and radar in autonomous vehicles. In his latest study, he gathered evidence from the scientific literature that shows links between these electromagnetic fields and early disease onset. Twelve recent reviews of occupational exposure to electromagnetic fields have found that people who are occupationally exposed to these fields are more likely to get sick. Other research on rats has shown that exposure to electromagnetic pulses causes neurodegeneration.
The need for more research
“Very young people who are exposed to radiation from cell phones or Wi-Fi for several hours a day may develop digital dementia,” says Martin L. Pall. “The results of each of these studies should be shared with the general public,” says Martin L. Pall, “so that everyone can take the necessary steps to reduce the incidence of early forms of Alzheimer’s disease.