A few years ago, there were a lot of news stories about the die-off of bee colonies. I haven’t seen anything lately – the media circus moves on – but if you’re concerned about your brain health, maybe this story should be on your personal front page.
Scientists who study the environmental contaminants that are killing off bees are now warning that the same toxins also threaten our brain health. This is what we know at this point. . .
The accelerating die-off of bee colonies has shocked the researchers who keep tabs on insect populations. And while the potential extinction of bees all by itself would be a horrible development, the growing threat to our own brain function and our increasing vulnerability to conditions like Alzheimer’s disease adds an extra layer of concern.
It’s another reason to switch up your diet to minimize your exposure to these poisons.
Bees in the Field are Canaries in the Coal Mine
I’m sure you’ve heard the expression “the canary in the coal mine.” That refers to the old practice of taking a canary down into a mine because the small bird would react to poisonous gases before the miners did. If the bird died, it was a warning signal to the men to get out fast.
Well, the problems scientists see in bees should be a similar warning to us. The plunging numbers of these little insects may foretell big complications for our wellbeing.
You won’t be surprised to learn that the chemicals farmers use to protect their crops are killing bees. For instance, researchers at the University of Illinois have found that honeybees foraging in fields actually prefer to collect food containing the fungicide chlorothalonil even though this chemical is toxic and can kill them. So they become unwitting accomplices in their own destruction.1
Bees don’t do well when they encounter these types of chemicals. They lack internal enzymes that can efficiently detoxify them. And when their bodies are trying to deal with these compounds, the effort lowers their ability to survive other contaminants.
Alters Behavior of Genes
Their exposure should alarm all of us. Tests, including research at the University of North Carolina, demonstrate that these chemicals can produce epigenetic effects in the brain’s neurons. Meaning, they change how genes operate. The result: The fungicides can warp neuronal gene expression in ways that parallel what goes on during Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative conditions.2
On top of that, there’s other evidence that what farm chemicals do to the brain not only harms us today, but can also produce frightening effects on future generations.
For instance, a study at Washington State University shows that these types of epigenetic changes are passed down from parents to children to grandchildren. As the researchers point out – “Transgenerational studies on environmental toxicants (like pesticides) have shown that even if a compound seems safe or has negligible risk from direct exposure mechanisms, it can affect the offspring of future generations.”3
And research in California shows that parents who live in the vicinity of farms that are sprayed with fungicides and other chemicals run a significantly higher risk of giving birth to children whose brains do not develop correctly.4
Avoid Pesticide Residues
The best way to avoid being exposed to these types of chemicals is to eat organic food. These types of foods, grown without the use fungicides, pesticides and weed-killing herbicides, contain the lowest levels of chemical residues.
The new research establishing the link between farm chemicals and brain dysfunction is a big reason why the European Parliament now recommends that more people eat organic food.5 Their report on the subject concludes, “At least 100 different pesticides are known to cause adverse neurological effects in adults, and all of these substances must therefore be suspected of being capable of damaging developing brains as well.”
Eating organic may not only help to save bees. It can also give you the edge against Alzheimer’s in the years to come.