Alzheimer’s myths run rampant, particularly when it comes to risk factors for the disease. Though several different behaviors and foods have been linked to a higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease, other supposed risk factors remain unconfirmed by scientific research.
Read on to discover four things that — despite what you may have heard — have not been proven to cause Alzheimer’s:
If you’re over the age of 40, you may remember when aluminum became the enemy. In the 1960s and 1970s, many people believed that everyday activities, such as applying antiperspirants, cooking in aluminum pots, drinking out of soda cans and taking antacids could lead to an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. In the last 50+ years of research, however, studies connecting aluminum and Alzheimer’s have proven inconclusive. Because of this, the official stance of the Alzheimer’s Association is that aluminum is not a risk factor for the disease.
“For virtually every study suggesting that aluminum may be linked to Alzheimer’s, there is another study failing to confirm those results.”
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved aspartame for limited use in 1981 and expanded its approval to use in all foods and beverages in 1996. Since then, people have raised concerns about a possible link between the artificial sweetener and memory loss. However, FDA scientists continue to review all data and have concluded that aspartame is safe for the general population, with the exception of those who have phenylketonuria, a rare genetic disease.
“Aspartame is one of the most exhaustively studied substances in the human food supply, with more than 100 studies supporting its safety.”
The fear of flu shots as a risk factor for Alzheimer’s seems to have originated from the late Dr. Hugh Fudenberg, whose medical license was revoked by the South Carolina Board of Medical Examiners in 1995 for ethical misconduct. The urban myth has persisted, despite lack of support by any published, peer-reviewed research. In fact, opposing findings have emerged: One study found that adults who received flu shots and other vaccines had a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
“Increased exposure to vaccines against diphtheria, tetanus, polio and flu not only was not a risk of contracting Alzheimer’s, but could actually protect against the disease.”
Over the last few decades, people have grown concerned about a possible link between Alzheimer’s and silver dental fillings. “Silver” fillings are actually made of a mixture (amalgam) of mercury, silver and tin, the latter of which can be toxic. However, according to the best available evidence, the Alzheimer’s Association believes there is no relationship between dental fillings and Alzheimer’s disease. What’s more, the FDA, U.S. Public Health Service and World Health Organization all endorse the safety of amalgam for dental restorations.
“Current evidence shows no connection between mercury-containing dental fillings and Alzheimer’s or other neurological diseases.”
Don’t fall prey to Alzheimer’s myths and misinformation. Instead, arm yourself with knowledge of legitimate risk factors so you can do everything in your power to keep the disease at bay.
Robyn Tellefsen is a New York City-based freelance writer and editor with more than 15 years of experience and hundreds of bylined articles. Her work has appeared on Chase, MSN, OurParents, Parent Society, SoFi, The CollegeBound Network and others.
Have you heard any other myths about things that cause Alzheimer’s? Share your stories with us in the comments below.
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