A New Paradigm-Preventing Alzheimer’s Disease

Many people feel powerless against the impending chances of developing this devastating disease of the brain.  Watching a loved one or friend experience this terrible disease is terrifying and there has been little shared from the medical community regarding how to reduce your chances of ending up with severe cognitive declines as we age.

There has been exciting research on this topic emerging in the scientific community since 2005 and the more we learn about the role of insulin and insulin resistance in the brain the more we understand how important its role is in contributing to Alzheimer’s disease.

Type 3 diabetes is the term often used to describe the insulin abnormalities seen in conjunction with Alzheimer’s.  To better understand this, here is a brief review of diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes refers to a condition where the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin are destroyed in an auto-immune process leaving the body devoid of this important hormone.

Type 2 diabetes refers to a condition where the cells of the body become resistant to the effects of insulin, which is typically the result of obesity and/or the consumption of excessive amounts of sugar and high carbohydrate foods associated with the standard American diet.

Insulin is a hormone that helps our cells to absorb sugar from the blood stream.  Sugar (glucose) is the primary fuel that powers all of our cellular activity so lack of insulin or insulin resistance basically starves our cells of the most important nutrient needed to run the cellular machinery.  To further complicate the problem, when insulin can’t get into the cell, it stays circulating in the blood stream and contributes to significant damage to the blood vessels, eyes and kidneys.

Type 3 diabetes is an emerging term that refers to insulin resistance specifically in the brain and increased risk associated with the development of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

The theory that insulin resistance and blood sugar abnormalities contribute to Alzheimer’s disease has been growing in the medical community however, in 2011 groundbreaking research made the link even more real.  Researches found that people with diagnosed diabetes were twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.[1]  Dr. Susan DeLaMonte at Brown University is also at the forefront of research linking insulin resistance and blood sugar abnormalities to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Although not every person who has diabetes will develop Alzheimer’s, there is an ever growing link of a metabolic disorder associated with the development of this disease and it makes perfect sense.

Brain cells and neurons consume large amounts of sugar.  In fact, our brain accounts for only 2% of our body weight but consumes about 20% of the glucose in our blood.  When insulin levels decline or brain cells become resistant to the effects of insulin their metabolic activity declines as they starve for glucose.  Reduced metabolic activity of brain cells and neurons means less brain activity and a decreased ability of the brain to clear abnormal structures like the beta-amyloid plaques associated with Alzheimer’s disease.  It has been established that these disease causing plaques do form naturally even in health brains however, healthy brains can clear them before they are a problem.

Eating a diet low in refined sugar and carbohydrates and high in fiber that stabilizes blood sugar and minimizes insulin surges could be one of the most powerful ways to keep your brain healthy. Read more about how to craft a diet that fosters balanced blood sugar.

Quick tips include:

-Avoid high sugar foods like candy, soda, baked goods, refined sugar and white breads and pastas.  Focus on whole grains, vegetables, high quality fats from sources like fish, nuts, seeds, coconut and avocadoes and good quality lean protein.

-Be careful with fruit.  Although most people know it is healthy remember that most fruit contains a lot of sugar.  Apples, pears, oranges, grapefruit, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries are all low sugar fruits that offer an ideal ratio of sugar to fiber which helps to avoid blood sugar and insulin surges.

For more on how to improve your health today, click here. 

[1] Ohara T, Doi Y, Ninomiya T, Hirakawa Y, Hata J, Iwaki T, Kanba S, Kiyohara Y. Glucose tolerance status and risk of dementia in the community: the Hisayama study. Neurology. 2011 Sep 20;77(12):1126-34.


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