Exposure to nitrates through environment and food can increase death risk from diseases like Alzheimer's, diabetes mellitus, and Parkinson's, say researchers.
Led by Dr. Suzanne de la Monte of Rhode Island Hospital, the study has found strong parallels between age adjusted increases in death rate from Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and diabetes and the progressive increases in human exposure to nitrates, nitrites and nitrosamines through processed and preserved foods as well as fertilizers.
The authors believe that increase in exposure plays a critical role in the cause, development and effects of the pandemic of these insulin-resistant diseases.
"We have become a 'nitrosamine generation.' In essence, we have moved to a diet that is rich in amines and nitrates, which lead to increased nitrosamine production,' said de la Monte.
"We receive increased exposure through the abundant use of nitrate-containing fertilizers for agriculture," she added.
The investigators suggest that the cellular alterations that occur as a result of nitrosamine exposure are fundamentally similar to those that occur with aging, as well as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and Type 2 diabetes mellitus.
The researchers recognize that an increase in death rates is anticipated in higher age groups.
Yet when the researchers compared mortality from Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease among 75 to 84 year olds from 1968 to 2005, the death rates increased much more dramatically than for cerebrovascular and cardiovascular disease, which are also aging-associated.
In Alzheimer's patients, the death rate increased 150-fold, from 0 deaths to more than 150 deaths per 100,000.
Parkinson's disease death rates also increased across all age groups.
The authors state that the time course of the increased prevalence rates of Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and diabetes cannot be explained on the basis of gene mutations.
They instead mirror the classical trends of exposure-related disease. Because nitrosamines produce biochemical changes within cells and tissues, it is conceivable that chronic exposure to low levels of nitrites and nitrosamines through processed foods, water and fertilizers is responsible for the current epidemics of these diseases and the increasing mortality rates associated with them.
The study has been published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.