Why does Finland have the highest dementia mortality rate? Environmental factors may be generalizable

Brain Res. 2017 Sep 15:1671:14-17. doi: 10.1016/j.brainres.2017.06.032. Epub 2017 Jul 5.


Finland has the highest death rate from dementia in the world and its environmental features can be instructive in understanding hidden causes of dementia. Environmental factors there include: 1) a climate that is both very cold and humid resulting in housing frequently harboring molds that are capable of producing a neurotoxic mycotoxin 2) the Gulf of Finland as well as Finnish lakes harbor cyanobacteria that produce the neurotoxin, beta-N-methyl amino-L-alanine, known to cause dementia and related disorders 3) the aforementioned toxins can be potentiated by the presence of mercury and methyl mercury which can be found in Finnish waters 4) soil in Finland is naturally low in selenium and selenium deficiency may reduce the quantity and effectiveness of glutathione's ability to protect against neurotoxins. A high rate of fatal dementia could be the consequence of these environmental factors. Studies that can support or disprove this hypothesis are suggested. Such environmental toxins are likely to promote Alzheimer's disease elsewhere in the world where such a combination of neurotoxins may also occur.

Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; Beta-N-methyl amino-L-alanine (BMAA); Finland; Glutathione; Methylmercury; Mycotoxin.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acids, Diamino / metabolism
  • Amino Acids, Diamino / toxicity
  • Cyanobacteria
  • Cyanobacteria Toxins
  • Dementia / etiology*
  • Dementia / mortality*
  • Environment
  • Finland / epidemiology
  • Glutathione / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Mercury
  • Methylmercury Compounds / toxicity
  • Mycotoxins / adverse effects
  • Mycotoxins / toxicity
  • Neurotoxins / metabolism
  • Neurotoxins / toxicity*
  • Selenium / metabolism


  • Amino Acids, Diamino
  • Cyanobacteria Toxins
  • Methylmercury Compounds
  • Mycotoxins
  • Neurotoxins
  • beta-N-methylamino-L-alanine
  • Mercury
  • Glutathione
  • Selenium