Want to Avoid Alzheimer’s? Just Keep Talking

January 15th, 2010 by

In the interests of keeping Insider readers mentally alert for as long as possible, we present the results of a study that appeared in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease (and is summarized in the Wall Street Journal). The study found that long-term cell phone use appears to protect against and even reverse Alzheimer’s-like symptoms in mice. Here is the Journal’s description of the study:

Mice genetically engineered to develop brain impairments similar to Alzheimer’s in humans were divided into two groups. One group was exposed twice daily to hour-long electromagnetic fields akin to those created during cellphone use. Mice in the other group were not exposed to the radiation. After seven months, young mice in the first group fared significantly better on cognitive tests than their unexposed littermates. Older mice, which had already developed symptoms of Alzheimer’s, exposed to the radiation for eight months in a subsequent experiment also performed better than older nonexposed mice. Mice, younger and older, not engineered to develop Alzheimer’s also appeared to benefit from the radiation. Biopsies suggested such exposure might fight Alzheimer’s by inhibiting the buildup of certain protein plaques in the brain, the researchers said.

Given that exposure to radiation is considered a plus here, head set devices cannot be used. If your goal is Alzheimer’s prevention, you have to keep that cell phone clamped against your ear.
Before you start dialing up everyone on your call list, you might want to take note of a few caveats: first, what is true for mice is not necessarily true for humans. Further studies involving larger numbers of mice would be needed, and even then there would be no definitive correlation with humans.
There are also a couple of potential safety issues connected with cell phones: use of cell phones while driving is a widely-recognized hazard. In some states, use of cell phones without a head set is illegal. After being pulled over, you could try the line: “but officer, I cannot use a headset because I’m trying to avoid Alzheimer’s.” You’ll get a chuckle…and a ticket.
Beyond the safe driving issue, there are some inconclusive but alarming indications that heavy use of cell phones might result in brain tumors.
So there you have it: talking on your cell phone might help prevent Alzheimers, but it might also cause a motor vehicle accident or even a brain tumor. Personal risk management at its ambiguous best. It’s all so confusing, I’m going to take a coffee break. Caffeine, they say, is really good for you. Except when it isn’t.