When I first read this article it hurt my brain. I don’t do well with scientific terms and terminology and was curious to see the link between sugar and Alzheimer’s. So push through like you do when doing a sucky W.O.D. I took some stuff out of the original article to share with you. Make sure to hit the link above for the original article to get some more in-depth info. There are links throughout this post to the studies mentioned if you really want to geek out.
It’s increasingly looking like Alzheimer’s is another potential side effect of a sugary, Western-style diet. In some cases, the path from sugar to Alzheimer’s leads through type 2 diabetes. And a new study and others show that’s not always the case.
A longitudinal study, published in the journal Diabetologia. Followed 5,189 people over 10 years and found that people with high blood sugar had a faster rate of cognitive decline than those with normal blood sugar. Whether or not their blood-sugar level technically made them diabetic. In other words, the higher the blood sugar, the faster the cognitive decline. Melissa Schilling, a professor at New York University, performed her own review of studies connecting diabetes to Alzheimer’s in 2016. She sought to reconcile two confusing trends.
People who have type 2 diabetes are about twice as likely to get Alzheimer’s. And people who have diabetes and are treated with insulin are also more likely to get Alzheimer’s. Suggesting elevated insulin plays a role in Alzheimer’s. In fact, many studies have found that elevated insulin, or “hyperinsulinemia,” significantly increases your risk of Alzheimer’s. On the other hand, people with type 1 diabetes, who don’t make insulin at all, are also thought to have a higher risk of Alzheimer’s. How could these both be true?
Schilling posits this happens because of the insulin-degrading enzyme. A product of insulin that breaks down both insulin and amyloid proteins in the brain. The same proteins that clump up and lead to Alzheimer’s disease. People who don’t have enough insulin, aren’t going to make enough of this enzyme to break up those brain clumps. Meanwhile, in people who use insulin to treat their diabetes and end up with a surplus of insulin. Most of this enzyme gets used up breaking that insulin down. Leaving not enough enzyme to address those amyloid brain clumps.
According to Schilling, this can happen even in people who don’t have diabetes yet—who are in a state known as “prediabetes.” It simply means your blood sugar is higher than normal. In a 2012 study, Roberts broke nearly 1,000 people down into four groups based on how much of their diet came from carbohydrates.
The group that ate the most carbs had an 80 percent higher chance of developing mild cognitive impairment—a pit stop on the way to dementia—than those who ate the smallest amount of carbs.
Rebecca Gottesman, a professor of neurology at Johns Hopkins, cautions that the findings on carbs aren’t as well-established as those on diabetes. “It’s hard to be sure at this stage, what an ‘ideal’ diet would look like,” she said. “There’s a suggestion that a Mediterranean diet, for example, may be good for brain health.”
But she says there are several theories out there to explain the connection between high blood sugar and dementia. Diabetes can also weaken the blood vessels, which increases the likelihood that you’ll have ministrokes in the brain, causing various forms of dementia.
A high intake of simple sugars can make cells, including those in the brain, insulin resistant, which could cause the brain cells to die. Meanwhile, eating too much, in general, can cause obesity. The extra fat in obese people releases cytokines or inflammatory proteins that can also contribute to cognitive deterioration, Roberts said. In one study by Gottesman, obesity doubled a person’s risk of having elevated amyloid proteins in their brains later in life. It looks like decisions we make while we’re still relatively young can affect our future cognitive health.
Does your brain hurt now? Or is that just me?