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Doughnuts, Diabetes and Dementia

By Jane Noble
June 18th, 2013

Put that doughnut down and walk away; not just for the sake of your waistline, but also for your brain. There is growing evidence that eating sugary, processed foods can trigger brain altering dementia like Alzheimer’s disease, which some experts are dubbing “Type 3 Diabetes.” At Amada we have many Alzheimer’s patients in our care. So much of the disease is still a mystery to doctors and researchers, but every day we get one step closer to better understanding the disease and ultimately finding a cure.

Dr. Suzanne de la Monte, a neuropathologist at Brown University whose team coined the term Type 3 Diabetes says that, according to her research, consuming too much sugar can lead to insulin resistance in the brain—a very bad thing. “We found that by making the brains of rats insulin resistant, the rats developed an Alzheimer-like disease pattern, including neurodegeneration,” she says. “They were demented. They couldn’t learn or remember.”

In simple terms:

• Our cells need glucose from food for energy.

• Insulin, which is a hormone produced in the pancreas, helps our cells absorb glucose from the bloodstream.

• The cells then metabolize this glucose into energy.

If there’s an excess of glucose in the bloodstream from, say, your Krispy Kreme indulgence, your pancreas will produce more insulin to keep up. Your cells, however, can become resistant to the increased insulin, which means that they won’t get enough energy and will start to deteriorate. Starved brain cells can result in memory loss and confusion—the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s.

“This problem is all about prevention,” Dr. de la Monte says. “The public health answer is to stop obesity at the youngest possible age by impressing upon parents the need to not over-feed children or feed them fast or processed foods.”
Still, it’s not too late for adults to safeguard their health. Here are five recommendations for a healthier lifestyle.

1. Keep tabs on your weight. No one becomes obese overnight. Weigh yourself regularly and measure your waist so you will know if you are gaining weight. Act fast to lose those few extra pounds before a few turns into 20 or 40 or 100.

2. Eat less meat. Cut down on meat and eat more plant-based foods as the US government’s “My Plate” guidelines suggest. That means half of your plate should be fruits and vegetables; the other half grains and protein. If you presently eat a lot of meat, then slowly reduce your intake so you won’t feel cranky and deprived.

3. Cut back on sugar. Sugar is the enemy and it is hard to avoid. It is implicated in type 2 and 3 diabetes, so it’s best to keep sugar consumption to a minimum. But don’t reward yourself by cutting down sugar with an extra slice of pizza!

4. Cook more. We live in an age of convenience food. But cooking with fresh, un-processed ingredients is so much better for you and can also save money – though perhaps not time. But the trade-off is worth it for the sake of your health.

5. Avoid nitrates. Research suggests that there is a link between Alzheimer’s and consuming foods containing nitrosamines. Protect yourself by avoiding foods that list sodium nitrite on the label. Common culprits are processed foods including hot dogs, ground beef and smoked meats and bacon.

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