Almost half of adults over 85 are diagnosed with dementia (1), adding up to 5.2 million Americans currently affected by Alzheimer’s disease. Not a statistic we can look forward to.
In 2006, Swedish researchers found that borderline diabetes (pre-diabetes) is associated with an almost 70% increased risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s later in life (75 and over) (2).
In a 2011 report from the CDC, one-third of Americans are currently pre-diabetic (3), putting 100 million Americans at significant risk of getting Alzheimer’s. To make matters worse, 90% – or 90 million Americans – are unaware they have pre-diabetes (3)!
Moreover, many people don’t realize that you can eat “healthy” treats and still be in the pre-diabetic zone.
Depressing, right? But this does not have to be you, and you can have a positive effect on helping your loved ones steer clear of the danger zone.
Read on and learn how to change these odds before it is too late!
There are two basic theories linking elevated blood sugars to increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease:
1. Insulin Resistance of the Brain
Alzheimer’s is a process by which excess amyloid plaque builds up in the brain, compromising brain function.
While many theories exist as to why the plaque accumulates, one common theory is that it is due to a lack of a protein called insulin-degrading enzyme.
This protein’s job is to remove excess sugar-carrying insulin and amyloid plaque from the brain.
If this enzyme is too busy removing insulin and excess sugar from the brain due to high blood sugar levels, there may not be enough to also remove excess plaque, thereby significantly increasing the risk of Alzheimer’s.
In one study, mice who were lacking in this enzyme developed dementia, and elderly people have been shown to get increased amyloid plaque in their cerebrospinal fluid in the brain when insulin is injected into their veins (4) .
How Insulin Resistance Works
When blood sugars rise, the pancreas secretes more insulin to drive the sugar into the cells. If the sugars stay abnormally high due to a diet high in simple carbs and/or sugars, the muscles and brain cells can become resistant to up-taking sugar.
No sugar in the brain means: no thinking juice!
2. Glycation and Free Radicals
Excess sugar in the blood tends to oxidize easily and begins to attach to circulating proteins in a process called glycation. In this process, proteins and sugars stick together and may attach to and thicken the arterial walls in both the heart and the brain.
These formations are known as Advanced Glycation End Products, or AGEs—a kind of free radical. Once formed, they can further oxidize and ultimately raise oxidized LDL (low density lipoprotein) levels.
Brain autopsies of Alzheimer’s patients show signs of significant oxidative damage induced by free radicals. Oxidized LDLs further damage the arterial walls, putting them at risk for calcium plaque formation, clots, and creating an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, inflammation, cancer, heart attack, stroke, and Alzheimer’s (5).
Support for the Glycation Theory
In a 2006 article published by Life Extension Magazine, a group of Swedish researchers reported on finding higher than normal levels of AGEs in autopsied Alzheimer’s patients:
A newly published review article examined the role of AGEs and oxidative stress in Alzheimer’s disease. Scientists found that advanced glycation end products were present in higher amounts in the biopsied brains of patients who had died from Alzheimer’s than in those who died from other causes. They also presented evidence that AGEs form in the brains of Alzheimer’s sufferers early in the disease process. (6)
They went on to say,
A particularly dangerous form of AGE that has toxic effects against neurons has been found to accumulate in the region of the brain associated with memory and emotion, an area that sustains damage in Alzheimer’s disease. Furthermore, AGEs promote the accumulation and cross-linking of harmful
beta amyloid plaques in the brain, which may contribute to the pathological changes and progressive dementia of Alzheimer’s disease. (7)
An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure
Both of these theories regarding the cause of dementia posit that it stems from excess sugar in the blood.
The Swedish researchers cited above concluded that,
Our findings have significant implications for public health because some studies show that impaired glucose regulation can be improved by lifestyle changes. Our findings also highlight the need to detect borderline diabetes in order to proactively address both type II diabetes and dementia.
The key here is early detection of any blood sugar regulation issues, and a diet and lifestyle that can both prevent and reverse pre-diabetes. The problem: 90 million Americans are unaware that they are at risk.
Protect Your Brain: Prevention Steps
- Step One: Screen Your Blood Sugar at Home
At LifeSpa, we source blood sugar monitors that are inexpensive and hospital-approved. Check your blood sugar first thing each morning – this is called your “fasting blood sugar” – over a period of two weeks. Average levels between 70-85mg/dL are ideal. Over 100mg/dL is considered pre-diabetes. Don’t wait until it is too late to screen.
- Step Two: Take the Hidden and Not-So-Hidden Sugar Out of your Diet
Please read my video-newsletter series on Pre-Diabetes and Blood Sugar to find out if you are consuming excess hidden sugars without realizing it!
- Step Three: Proper Exercise Lowers Blood Sugar and Alzheimer Risk
The big muscles in the body use most of the body’s sugar. When you use these muscles intensively, they pull significant amounts of sugar out of the blood that might otherwise damage the arteries and the brain. You can get these benefits in just 12 minutes a day!
- Step Four: Eat 3 Meals, No Snacks
Spacing meals apart and consistently giving the body time without any food intake allows the body to burn its fat stores for endurance-based energy. Fat is a stable source of fuel, whereas sugar is a very unstable source of fuel. Burning fat decreases the risk of Alzheimer’s and diabetes.
- Step Five: Nutritional Support
There are many nutritional supplements that support stable blood sugar, memory, and mental clarity. I would suggest researching the following, all of which I have written extensively about: Gymnema sylvestre, Cinnamon, Chromium, Alpha-Lipoic acid, Omega 3 Fatty Acids, Turmeric, Bacopa, Brahmi.
Sadly, poor blood sugar regulation is linked to much more than just increased risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia, although that should be scary enough to whip our diet and lifestyle into shape!
Wow! The Many Health Risks Associated With Pre-Diabetes (10)
Alzheimer’s Disease -; Dementia
Enlarged Male Breasts
High Stress Hormones
Increased Blood Coagulation
Low Vitamin Levels
Male Pattern Baldness
Need for Stimulants
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
Stiff Blood Vessels
Hope for a Cure
Some very exciting research done by Kieran Clarke of Oxford University found that coconut oil offered unique benefits to Alzheimer’s patients. Coconut oil delivers energy into the bloodstream as ketones – an energy supply derived from fats rather than sugar.
With Alzheimer’s, the brain becomes somewhat insulin-resistant (meaning it cannot get its energy from sugar). Coconut oil delivers energy from fats, which is an alternate brain fuel. This has excited researchers. This is the subject of a new book, Alzheimer’s Disease: What If There Was A Cure?
Dr. Beverly Teter, a lipid biochemist and researcher, says that the benefits they are seeing with coconut oil as an alternative brain fuel for Alzheimer’s could potentially be applied to conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, ALS , epilepsy, dementia, even schizophrenia and autism. Exciting!