(NaturalHealth365) Currently, over one thousand different chemicals are used as pesticides in the United States. Funneled into at least 20,000 different products, these pesticides are utilized not only for crops, but for lawns, gardens, homes, parks and schools as well.
Research has linked excessive and prolonged pesticide exposure to cancer, endocrine disorders, respiratory problems, birth defects, and organ failure – as well as neurodegenerative conditions such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.
Now, it appears that a plant pigment, quercetin, may help to neutralize the damage from toxic pesticides, offering some protection against their ravages.
Organophosphate pesticides are a threat to human health
Experts say that organophosphate pesticides are particularly damaging, with pregnant women, elderly people, children and people with compromised immune systems most at risk from exposure. Research has shown that prenatal or early childhood exposure to organophosphates raises the risk of neurological damage and learning disorders, including ADHD.
This is not at all surprising, given the fact that organophosphate pesticides were originally developed for use in biological warfare – and attack the nervous system in much the same way as nerve gas.
Organophosphates inhibit cholinesterase – an enzyme that breaks down the neurotransmitter acetylcholine – so that acetylcholine builds up in the nerves. When this buildup makes it impossible to breathe, death occurs.
It is not only humans that are susceptible to toxicity from organophosphates. The EPA says they are also dangerous to wildlife – including bees.
Pesticides linked to neurodegenerative disease
Exposure to pesticides can cause memory loss, poor coordination, decreased vision, altered moods and impaired motor skills. And, recent studies show an association between chronic pesticide exposure and increased prevalence of dementia.
For instance, DDT – banned in the United States since 1972 – can still be ingested through imported foods. Living near farmlands where DDT was formerly sprayed can also cause exposure. Alzheimer’s disease patients have been shown to have 3.8 times more DDT metabolites in their blood than individuals without Alzheimer’s disease.
In addition, 76 percent of Parkinson’s disease patients were found to have detectable amounts of the pesticide beta-hexachlorocyclohexane (beta-HCH) in their blood – as compared to 40 percent of non-Parkinson’s patients. In fact, the association between beta-HCH and Parkinson’s disease is so pronounced that researchers were able to use it to reliably predict a diagnosis.
Quercetin activates natural defense systems
Quercetin is a flavonoid and powerful antioxidant that occurs naturally in plants – and helps to defend them against temperature extremes, toxins and disease. Researchers maintain that quercetin can help humans as well – and report that it shows great promise in helping to suppress the damaging effects of pesticides.
Quercetin combats toxicity through several different mechanisms. The flavonoid preserves the metabolism of energy, of fatty acids and of sex hormones. It also reduces oxidative stress, protects against damage to cell DNA, and helps support kidney and liver function.
Exciting new research offers hope for Alzheimer’s patients
In a study published in June of 2016 in NeuroReport, researchers found that the oral administration of quercetin-enriched onion powder for four weeks significantly enhanced memory in early-stage Alzheimer’s disease patients.
And, a 2015 study published in Acta Pharmaceutica Sinica showed that quercetin reduces the toxicity of beta amyloid proteins that accumulate in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients and cause dementia and memory loss.
Research confirms quercetin’s neuroprotective effects
In animal studies, researchers found that quercetin protects brain-cell function and prevents brain-cell death. In addition, quercetin boosts natural defense systems by activating glutathione – the body’s premier antioxidant – and by increasing levels of paraoxonase 2, a potent scavenger of the free radicals that damage cell mitochondrial membranes.
In another study, researchers found that quercetin – by reducing oxidative stress and mitochondrial swelling – protects brain cells against toxicity from the pesticide endosulfan.
Even more impressive is the fact that quercetin didn’t just “improve” levels of beneficial enzymes and antioxidants – it reversed the deficits, restoring the substances to normal, healthy levels.
How should I use quercetin to help protect against pesticide exposure?
You can increase your dietary intake of quercetin by eating organic citrus fruits, onions, apples, berries, grapes, and dark cherries. Quercetin is present in tea and red wine as well. (of course, drinking lots of wine may not be the best way to improve your health)
Quercetin is also available in capsules and tablets, with usual dosages ranging from 150 to 400 mgs a day. Before trying supplemental quercetin, discuss the matter with your holistic medical practitioner.
With pesticides an ever-present threat in our environment and our lives, quercetin is proving its value as a safe and natural line of defense.