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By SUSAN CALLAHAN, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist
When you are frying up a meal of your favorite food, the last thing on your mind is that you're increasing your risk for Alzheimer's disease.
But in fact, as scientists learn more about the causes of Alzheimer's disease, they are struck more and more about a strange connection between activities that produce indoor or outdoor pollution and Alzheimer's disease. Frying food is once such activity, strange as it may seem. How does frying food raise your risk for developing Alzheimer's disease?
What You Don't Know About PM2.5 Can Hurt You
When scientists speak of types of pollution, they speak in terms of particle size. Particles or " particulate matter", abbreviated as "PM", can vary in size from large enough to see to so tiny that it would take tens of thousands of them to fit on the head of a pin. In the world of measuring the the particles that are truly dangerous to your health, the smaller the particle the more dangerous it is. The reason for this is that smaller particles can enter into the cavities of your lungs and indeed into your nasal passages and your brain.
How small must a particle be to enter your brain? PM2.5 is the threshold size, meaning 25,000 microns of these particles can fit in an inch.
Women Exposed to P2.5 Have an 92% Higher Dementia Risk
Women who are exposed to higher levels of PM2.5 have an far higher risk for developing dementia and Alzheimer's disease, according to a study from researchers in California.
The scientists, from USC Davis, the Keck School of Medicine and the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, studied health reports of 3,647 women aged 65 to 79 from 48 states.
Here is what they found. After adjusting for lifestyle, age, education, race and ethnic background, and pre-existing medical conditions, they discovered that women who live in areas high in tiny pollution particles have an 92% higher risk for developing dementia, including Alzheimer's disease.
Other studies, such as a 2011 study from the University of Southern California, connected the dots between Alzheimer's disease and these pollution.
The study, led by Dr. Caleb Finch, found that tiny particles of pollution damage neurons involved in learning and memory. These particles also cause inflammation in your brain that has been linked with premature aging and dementia.
Of course, outdoor pollution is a huge source of the PM2.5 particles. But it's hard if not impossible to avoid exposure to outdoor pollution other than moving to a town or state with cleaner air.
But you can do something about indoor pollution.
Frying Food Produces PM 2.5 Sized Particles
Many things you do around the house can produce PM2.5 particles. Basically, anything that burns material or that you fry or grill.
Smoking cigarettes produces PM2.5. So does building a fire in a fireplace. Likewise, barbecuing meat can produce these fine particles.
But of the many things we do that produce PM2.5, one of the most common is frying food.
Open pan frying, without placing a top over the pan or skillet is the worse offender. Those fine sprays of particles are released and can be absorbed by anyone in the kitchen or perhaps even farther away.
Whenever you can, avoid frying your food. Choose to bake and let the food cool down some before eating.
For the more we learn about Alzheimer's and the premature aging of your brain, the more we are convinced that frying food is a health risk not worth taking.