Is Washing Our Hands a Bad Thing?

September 8, 2013

Researchers at Cambridge have observed that the chance of developing Alzheimer’s and other dementias increases in developed countries.  This appears to be the case even after normalizing for factors like age, birth rate, life expectancy, etc.

A new study attributes this phenomenon to the better hygiene we enjoy.  Reduced contact to bacteria and viruses means our immune systems are weaker and less able to combat the inflammation of dementia.

The so called “hygiene hypothesis” proposes that that there is a relationship between cleaner environments and a higher risk of certain allergies and disease.    Based on this latest study, experts now add Alzheimer’s to that list.

Cambridge researchers compared data among 192 countries.  After making appropriate adjustments, they found that nations where potable water is widely available and where infectious disease is low, like France or Switzerland, have 10 to 12 percent higher Alzheimer’s rates compared to countries with unclean water and higher rates of infectious disease, such as China or Ghana.



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