I'm a Doctor of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine by training, but I am an avid researcher of every form of medicine.
Alzheimer’s disease is a truly horrific condition that affects nearly 6 million Americans and is estimated to triple in prevalence during the next thirty years. And, despite the fact that the National Institute of Health (NIH) spends billions of dollars per year researching it, we’re often told either that the cause is still unknown or that it’s actually the result of faulty genes.
But is this true? Are we really still that far from understanding what causes this cruelest of diseases, and thus totally in the dark about how to stop it?
Unfortunately, most people don’t know the reality of the situation, namely that there has been substantial research demonstrating the exact biochemical mechanisms by which mercury induces Alzheimer’s disease.
Despite the predominant attitude in the mainstream that Alzheimer's is definitively not related to heavy metals, there is massive, detailed evidence that confidently establishes a link between the two. It all goes back to the story of Dr. Boyd Haley and the startling information he uncovered in his lab.
Boyd Haley, a Pioneer in the Elucidation of How Mercury Causes Alzheimer's Disease
Boyd Haley, Ph.D. is a professor of biochemistry who has done perhaps more work than anyone on establishing the biological plausibility of mercury causing Alzheimer's disease.
Decades ago, Dr. Haley researched the biochemical differences between the brains of normal people and those with Alzheimer’s using a technique he pioneered that enabled him to look closely at the activity of various enzymes in living tissue.
His team found that certain enzymes were inhibited in Alzheimer’s patients by 80 or even 99 percent in some cases, in comparison with controls. He was then given a grant to study these enzyme differences for five years in an attempt to determine what could be affecting them.
After reviewing some of the existing literature demonstrating that Alzheimer’s patients tend to have more mercury in their brains than average people, Dr. Haley began to look at the effects of mercury on these enzymes and how it might lead to some of the hallmark neurological changes associated with this crippling disease.
NFTs: What They Are and How Mercury Causes Them
NFTs, or Neurofibrillary Tangles, are what occur when tau proteins malfunction. Ordinarily, tau proteins assist the internal support structures of the neurons, called microtubules, giving them structural integrity. In patients with Alzheimer’s, these proteins become dysfunctional and accumulate abnormally, creating NFTs, which impair the function of the brain by interfering with the synaptic connections between neurons.
Based on Dr. Haley’s analysis of the biochemistry of mercury, it should chemically interfere with the brain’s production of tubulin, a protein needed in the creation of microtubules, and could therefore cause NFTs. In order to prove this concept in the laboratory, he exposed rats to mercury vapor and found that, as predicted, their brains began to form NFTs identical to those found in Alzheimer’s patients.
Mercury, Alzheimer’s, and Glutamate: Mystery Solved
Glutamate is a powerfully excitatory neurotransmitter that has been linked to depression, schizophrenia, and suicide. In all these cases, there is an excessive amount present in the brain. Interestingly, glutamate levels are also elevated in patients with Alzheimer's.
Whenever there is too much of an excitatory neurotransmitter (one that leads to increased firing of neurons), the result can be excitotoxicity. This is also the same mechanism whereby aspartame has been accused of causing brain damage.
Dr. Haley used his knowledge of biochemistry to then look at glutamine synthetase, an enzyme whose function is to break down glutamate, protecting the brain by preventing excessive levels of this overstimulating neurotransmitter.
His research found that this protective enzyme could be deactivated in the presence of mercury vapor.
Given the aforementioned connection between excessive glutamate and mental illness, this is not surprising and serves as an excellent theoretical foundation for the explanation of Mad Hatter’s Disease (note that in the US, hat makers continued to use mercury until the 1940s, almost a century after the creation of the Mad Hatter character in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland).
The Final Nail in the Coffin of the “Metals Don’t Cause Alzheimer’s” Hypothesis: APOE as Remover of Mercury
As if these findings about mercury, NFTs, and glutamate metabolism weren’t already enough, Dr. Haley went on to identify the relationship between the genes that increase the likelihood of getting Alzheimer’s disease and mercury.
A gene called APOE has been highly implicated in the development of Alzheimer’s disease. There are three versions of the gene that are typically found in humans: APOE2, APOE3, and APOE4.
The APOE4 variant is associated with an up to 15-fold increase in the likelihood of developing the disease (in those who have two copies of the allele versus just one). But why exactly does this version of the APOE gene seem to make Alzheimer’s so much more prevalent?
Although plenty of physicians and researchers are familiar with the fact that APOE4 is highly associated with Alzheimer’s, almost none of them know why, because they don't understand the full spectrum of what the gene actually does.
APOE is a gene that creates something called apolipoprotein E, which is a compound that serves many purposes in the body, including the transport of cholesterol and fat-soluble vitamins.
That's fairly well known, but here’s what hardly anyone is aware of: it’s also a protein that removes heavy metals from the brain. In fact, Dr. Haley calls it a ‘housekeeping protein’.
Here's how the exact biochemistry breaks down according to Dr. Haley’s research:
- APOE2 is highly protective against Alzheimer's and has two cysteine groups. Cysteine is a sulfur-based amino acid, and because mercury has a high affinity for sulfur, APOE2 is able to effectively carry mercury out of the brain, into the cerebrospinal fluid, and out of the body.
- APOE3 is moderately protective and has only one cysteine group instead of two, so it can only carry out one molecule of mercury at a time (making it a 50% less effective chelator than APOE2).
- APOE4, the variant associated with a 15x higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s, has NO cysteine groups and thus does not function whatsoever as a transporter of mercury out of the brain. People with the APOE4 gene have severely impaired neural chelation of mercury.
So, in essence, the APOE4 gene does not give someone Alzheimer's disease, just as not wearing a seat belt does not make you get into a car wreck. It merely impairs the removal of mercury from the brain, predisposing those with the gene to be unable to remove the compound which actually causes the disease in the first place.
Where Do We Go From Here?
All truly great scientists know one thing: if you want to get to the truth, you must think for yourself, and not be afraid to question the status quo.
If mercury truly is to blame for the demise of so many millions of people, and such untold suffering, then one would have to wonder which organizations may be necessarily held liable.
Is this the reason that Dr. Haley's research--once it began pointing the finger at mercury--was no longer funded by the NIH after years and years of receiving grants? Is it also the reason that he is never invited to Alzheimer's conferences, and no other scientists will publicly debate him on the mercury-Alzheimer's hypothesis?
One can only grasp at conjectures here, but of this, we can be sure: there is powerfully convincing science that links mercury to Alzheimer's disease which is not being discussed by hardly anyone, except hopefully YOU now that you've read this article.
Empower your loved ones to do their own research, think for themselves, and to question authority. Maverick scientists like Dr. Haley are rare, and we should do him the service of spreading his critical findings far and wide so as to elevate the conversation on this most tragic of diseases and give his data the respect it deserves.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.