My grandmother used to call it “sugar disease” and when studies revealed a shocking link between insulin and brain cell deterioration, some doctors referred to it as “type 3 diabetes”. I’m talking about Alzheimer’s disease.
These early findings raised the question that if Alzheimer’s disease is associated with insulin resistance, then perhaps Alzheimer’s disease is not as incurable as we’ve been led to believe…
How sugar damages the brain
Type 1 and type 2 diabetes are both conditions caused by the body’s resistance to insulin: type 1 diabetes is caused by the body’s inability to produce insulin, and type 2 diabetes is caused by the deterioration of the body’s insulin receptors, which is linked to the consumption of too much refined carbohydrate like processed grains and sugar.
We also know that diabetics have approximately a 50 per cent higher risk of developing experience dementia. That’s because the cells in your brain can become insulin-resistant just like other cells in the body, and the accumulation of beta amyloid plaques — characteristic of the Alzheimer’s brain — have been linked to a decrease in insulin levels, which negatively affects cognition.
The truth is, none of what I’m saying is ground-breaking news. It’s no secret that a diet high in carbohydrates (especially refined and hidden sugars) could increase your risk of serious diseases like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.
However, it’s only in recent years that the serious and damaging effects of sugar on brain health have become more evident. When you eat carbohydrates, which break down into sugar in the body, your blood sugar levels sky-rocket.
High blood sugar levels also create inflammation, further causing your brain’s health to weaken. Over time, a diet high in sugar translates into the accelerated death of supple, healthy brain cells. Researchers have been aware for a while now that over time brain cells shrink and become tangled from high blood sugar levels. This means that your sugar intake could be drastically affecting long-term brain health, inherently increasing the likelihood of developing lesions in the brain, which are linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
In the most recent study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, researchers have for the first time ever established a link between blood sugar and Alzheimer’s disease.
This latest study has found that excess blood glucose levels can damage a vital enzyme called MIF (macrophage migration inhibitory factor), which plays a role in immune response and insulin regulation.
According to the researchers, MIF is also involved in the response of brain cells, called glia, to the build-up of abnormal beta amyloid plaques in the brain during the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. The researchers believe that reduction of MIF activity could be the ‘tipping point’ in the progression of the disease.
Commenting on the results, Professor Jean van den Elsen, from the University of Bath Department of Biology and Biochemistry, said: “Normally MIF would be part of the immune response to the build-up of abnormal proteins in the brain, and we think that because sugar damage reduces some MIF functions and completely inhibits others that this could be a tipping point that allows Alzheimer’s to develop.”
Dr Omar Kassaar, another researcher who took part in the study, added: “Excess sugar is well known to be bad for us when it comes to diabetes and obesity, but this potential link with Alzheimer’s disease is yet another reason that we should be controlling our sugar intake in our diets.”
Well, there you have it. One more reason to avoid refined and hidden sugars at all costs.
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Sugar’s ‘tipping point’ link to Alzheimer’s disease revealed, published online February 23, 2017, sciencedaily.com
Alzheimer’s Disease Is Type 3 Diabetes–Evidence Reviewed, published online 2008 Nov. doi: 10.1177/193229680800200619
Macrophage Migration Inhibitory Factor is subjected to glucose modification and oxidation in Alzheimer’s Disease. Scientific Reports, 2017; 7: 42874 DOI: 10.1038/srep42874