International Journal of Environmental Research and Public HealthOpen Access
In the present study, trace elements (TE) levels were evaluated in scalp hair along the continuum from healthy subjects (HS) to patients suffering from subjective memory concerns (SMC), and/or mild cognitive impairment (MCI), and those with already installed dementia (DEM) in order to: (i) assess the effects of environmental and lifestyle factors on TE concentrations and (ii) evaluate the analyzed elements as possible diagnostic biomarkers for the disease. The study involved 79 mainly permanent residents, >55 years old, from the city of Estarreja (northern Portugal), a former industrial area. The health status of the participants was assessed by means of a complete socio-demographic questionnaire and through cognitive screening tests, namely the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE). The test scores were categorized and used in the statistical analysis. Hair samples were collected and analyzed by inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) ICP-MS for selected TE. Dementia appears to be associated with higher age, the female gender, lower education level, and longer residence time in the study area. In addition, most of the participants diagnosed with dementia frequently consume home-grown foodstuffs, some irrigated with contaminated well water. The calculation of the TE enrichment factors of soil samples collected in kitchen gardens/small farms in the vicinity of the Estarreja Chemical Complex (ECC) reinforces the degree of Hg soil contamination in the area, due to anthropogenic sources that can be a source for the population Hg exposure route among others. Mercury levels in hair differed significantly between the four individual groups (HS, SMC, MCI, and DEM), increasing from healthy to dementia participants. Improved diagnostic results can be obtained using hair TE signatures coupled with MMSE scores. This strategy may prove useful for predictive diagnosis in population screening for cognitive impairment. © 2019 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.
E.F.a da Silva
Year of publication: 2019