A new study published this week seems to suggest that good health hygiene (i.e. avoiding germs) is linked with a higher risk of Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) and dementia. Put more ironically, living in a wealthy, developed, “first-world” country and being exposed to fewer bacteria and viruses appears to raise your risk of Alzheimer’s.
The study, published in Evolution, Medicine, and Public Health, found that industrialized countries with better sanitation and water quality had significantly higher rates of Alzheimer’s and dementia than poorer countries where germs run rampant.
Led by Molly Fox, researchers from Cambridge University analyzed data (age-adjusted) from the World Health Organization (WHO) and found that some of the wealthiest – and most hygienic – countries in the world, such as France, the UK, Switzerland, and Iceland, also had much higher rates of Alzheimer’s and dementia
The question the researchers asked was whether “differences in microbial diversity” – i.e. exposure to fewer germs – could explain “patterns of age-adjusted Alzheimer’s Disease rates between countries.” Their conclusion: “Hygiene is positively associated with AD risk.”