Check any community calendar and you’ll see events with titles like “Relay for Life,” “Go Red for Women” and “Walk for MS.” The common goal is to raise money to fight some form of chronic disease, whether it’s cancer, cardiovascular disease or an autoimmune disorder. Often there is talk of searching for the cure, yet one critical aspect of the problem has been right under our noses for nearly 50 years. As far back as 1974, the World Health Organization identified inflammation created by environmental toxins as an underlying cause for all chronic diseases.
Nine years ago, the National Center for Biotechnical Information (NCBI) repeated the message in a study published in the Journal of Environmental and Public Health. “The World Health Organization warns that chronic, non-communicable diseases are rapidly becoming epidemic worldwide,” it states. “Health care professionals in government ministries, public health, research and the clinic will only be successful against the onslaught of chronic, debilitating diseases once environmental contributors are recognized, researched and addressed . . . Hopefully, in our modern era of rapid information transfer, the process of widespread problem recognition and solution implementation will be expedited to stem the tide of chronic disease that is said to be poised to bankrupt healthcare systems.” (bold added for emphasis)
Although evidence for the role of environmental toxins in multiple conditions exists through thousands of studies, they have never been accessible in one place - until now. Dr. Dori Nearbo, Ph.D., MSBA and MSc, is working on A Compilation of Heavy Metal Abstracts, an anthology of research studies on 27 different conditions affected by heavy metals. Dr. Nearbo, the author of A Woman’s Heart Attack: What Your Doctor May Not Tell You, specializes in stem cell clinical trials, commercialization of cellular treatments and business development. Her areas of expertise include biotech, clinical research, R&D with a special interest in cardiovascular stem cell applications and life science.
The compilation is still a work in progress, with new studies being added as they are published. Topics are listed in alphabetical order and range from autism and bone health to obesity and thyroid conditions. Each study is listed initially as a title with author information and links, then covered in more depth with a description that includes methodology and conclusions.
In some cases, the studies called for further research. For example, in “The relationship of blood lead levels to blood pressure in the U.S. population” the authors found that blood levels were significantly related to systolic and diastolic pressures in males but not in females. “These findings and those from other studies confirm the relationship of blood lead and pressure at relatively low levels commonly observed in the general population,” it concludes. “The strength and importance of this relationship require further study through epidemiologic and metabolic investigations.”
In a similar vein, a study on “Associations of cumulative exposure to heavy metal mixtures with obesity and its comorbidities among U.S. adults in NHANES’ wraps up with a call for further investigation. “Our study suggests that cumulative exposure to heavy metals as mixtures is associated with obesity and its related chronic conditions such as hypertension and T2DM,” the authors state. “Additional research is needed to confirm these findings in longitudinal settings.”
Several others included case studies. In ‘A case of multiple sclerosis improvement following removal of heavy metal intoxication: lessons learnt from Matteo's case,’ researchers examined a patient affected by MS who had been treated unsuccessfully with various therapies for years. Urine analysis revealed elevated levels of aluminum, lead and mercury. However, after undergoing chelation treatment with EDTA (calcium disodium ethylene diamine tetraacetic acid) twice a month, he began to improve. “The clinical data correlated with the reduction of heavy metals in the urine to normal range levels,” the study found. “Our case report suggests that levels of toxic metals can be tested in patients affected by neurodegenerative diseases [such] as MS.”
Other researchers made specific recommendations based on their findings. One study of ‘Cancer and Non-Cancer Risk Concerns from Metals in Electronic Cigarette Liquids and Aerosols’ notes that exposure to metals in e-cigarette liquids and aerosols may pose a significant health risk, including for cancer. “The large range of metals within and across e-cigarette brands indicate the need for improvement in product design, enforced product safety regulations, and manufacturing quality control,” the authors maintain. “Implementation of such measures could reduce metal exposure in e-cigarettes.”
Like vaping, bone broth is a recent trend that contains unforeseen health consequences. In ‘The risk of lead contamination in bone broth diets,’ the authors’ recommendations are unequivocal. “In view of the dangers of lead consumption to the human body, we recommend that doctors and nutritionists take the risk of lead contamination into consideration when advising patients about bone broth diets.”
The sheer volume of evidence in Nearbo’s compilation is staggering. It includes 80 studies on the connection between heavy metals and cancer, 67 on the link to autism and 47 related to metals and hypertension. Once published, it will be an essential resource in helping the medical community recognize, research and address their role in chronic disease. Rather than walking for a cure, we can explore ways to eliminate heavy metals that are at the root of these conditions.
“A Compilation of Heavy Metal Abstracts” by Dr. Dorie Nearbo, Ph.D. Unpublished ‘Environmental Determinants of Chronic Disease and Medical Approaches: Recognition, Avoidance, Supportive Therapy, and Detoxification” by Margaret E. Sears and Stephen J. Genius, National Institutes of Health Journal of Environmental Public Health, January 19, 2012.
“Chronic inflammation in the etiology of disease across the life span” by David Furman, Judith Campisi, Eric Verdin, Pedro Carrera-Bastos, Sasha Targ, Claudio Franceschi, Luigi Ferrucci, Derek W. Gilroy, Alessio Fasano, Gary W. Miller, Andrew H. Miller, Alberto Mantovani, Cornelia M. Wey, Nir Barzilai, Jorg J. Goronzy, Thomas A. Rando, Rita B. Effros Alejandro Lucia, Nicole Kleinstreuer and George M. Slavich, National Institutes of Health, Nature Medicine, December 25, 2019.
“Inflammation: A Common Denominator of Disease” by Raymond Francis, Arizona Center for Advanced Medicine June 26, 2013.