Sean Cate
Sean Cate
July 6, 2024 ·  3 min read

Can Picking Your Nose Contribute to Dementia and Alzheimer’s? An Expert Explains

Nose-picking is a habit that many people indulge in, often without considering potential health impacts. Recent discussions have raised concerns about whether this seemingly innocuous habit could be linked to serious conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Here’s an expert explanation based on current research.

1. The Connection Between Nose-Picking and Brain Health

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Recent studies suggest that nose-picking might contribute to neuroinflammation, a known factor in Alzheimer’s disease. According to a review paper published in Biomolecules, the action of inserting a dirty finger into the nostril could introduce pathogens directly to the brain, potentially leading to inflammation and the production of beta-amyloid proteins, which are associated with Alzheimer’s.1

Read More: Couple marry again after husband with dementia proposes to wife he thought was his girlfriend

2. What Does the Research Say?

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The paper discussed does not present new experimental evidence but reviews existing studies exploring microbial and viral contributions to Alzheimer’s. The hypothesis is that pathogens entering through the nose (via nose-picking) might trigger brain inflammation, contributing to dementia. However, this theory is still under investigation, and no definitive cause-and-effect relationship has been established.

3. Expert Opinions

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Heather M. Snyder, Ph.D., from the Alzheimer’s Association, states that while the idea is intriguing, the report is speculative. “Alzheimer’s is a complex disease with many contributing factors,” she says. “Increasingly, we know the immune system plays an important role in the underlying biology of Alzheimer’s – there are an increasing number of clinical trials targeting immune-related mechanisms”.

4. Known Risk Factors for Dementia and Alzheimer’s

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Scientists have identified various factors that contribute to Alzheimer’s and dementia, including genetics, lifestyle, environment, and other medical conditions. Factors like age, family history, and heredity cannot be changed, but emerging evidence suggests that there are other modifiable risk factors.

5. Maybe Just Stop Picking Your Nose…

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While the link between nose-picking and Alzheimer’s is not confirmed, maintaining good hygiene is generally beneficial for health. The Alzheimer’s Association recommends several habits for brain health, including regular exercise, mental challenges, continuous education, injury prevention, smoking cessation, blood pressure control, diabetes management, quality sleep, a healthy diet, and maintaining a healthy weight.

Read More: Financial Elder Abuse: How Greedy Children are Cashing in on Dementia

6. Current Limitations in Research

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As of now, there is limited research directly linking nose-picking to Alzheimer’s. Most of the evidence is theoretical or based on animal studies. For instance, a study on mice found that certain bacteria could bypass the blood-brain barrier via the nasal passage, leading to brain inflammation similar to Alzheimer’s.2 More research is needed to understand the implications for humans fully.

7. Practical Advice

handwashing
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Given the uncertainty, it’s best to focus on established health practices. Washing hands frequently, avoiding nose-picking, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help reduce the risk of infections and other health issues. Amber Dixon, a dietitian, emphasizes the importance of these practices for overall health.3

Conclusion

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While the idea that nose-picking could contribute to dementia and Alzheimer’s is based on emerging research, it remains speculative. Maintaining good hygiene and adopting healthy habits are recommended to reduce the risk of various health issues. Further research is necessary to understand the potential link fully.

Read More: Mother Thought Her Child’s Bushy Eyebrows Were Just a Trait from Dad, Only to Realize It Was a Symptom of Childhood Dementia

Sources

  1. Can nose-picking really contribute to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease? An expert explains.” USA Today. Mary Walrath-Holdridge. February 11, 2024.
  2. Does Picking Your Nose Increase Your Risk of Alzheimer’s?.” Healthline. Tim Jewell. May 21, 2024
  3. Scientists Reveal How Nose-Picking Could Increase Risk of Alzheimer’s.” Science Alert. David Neild. February 2024.