Many of my patients are concerned about Alzheimer’s Disease; either for themselves or those they love.
In 2017 there were over 5 millions Americans living with this degenerative disease and it is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States. This challenging condition where one slowly loses memory, judgement abilities and normal function takes a large toll on families all around the world.
Is Alzheimer’s Type 3 Diabetes?
There is a good body of research suggesting a link between sugar and the development of Alzheimer’s Disease. (1,2) For this reason, many are beginning to call Alzheimer’s “type 3 diabetes”.
To understand why sugar affects the brain one must understand the basics of insulin.
Insulin is a vital hormone produced by the pancreas. It’s main responsibility is to help cells absorb blood sugar (glucose) for energy. When there is too much sugar and the cells are filled to capacity, this sugar is converted to glycogen, and when there is enough of that it is stored as fat.
Insulin also helps the brain by keeping blood vessels leading to the brain healthy. It encourages the brain’s neurons to absorb glucose as needed, and helps the brain’s neurons to become stronger. When insulin levels are low, this causes reduced brain function. (3)
When too much sugar is consumed over a long period of time, the cells in the body may become “resistant” to insulin because it is being overactive and the cells become overwhelmed. To make it easier to understand, insulin becomes an annoying sales person who calls the cells everyday to try and sell them more sugar even though they are already filled to the brim. So they begin to ignore insulin completely.
This leaves insulin in high levels in your blood vessels, desperate to get rid of the excess sugar. Too much of a good thing becomes bad (we all know this is true for inflammation) and in the case of insulin and sugar, can lead to the development of dangerous conditions like heart disease, diabetes and it appears to be the same for Alzheimer’s disease.
In a study lead by a neuropathologist at Brown University, researchers found that when they blocked the path of insulin to rats’ brains, they began experiencing symptoms of Alzheimer’s such as neuron deterioration, physical disorientation and memory loss. (4)
Studies suggest that those suffering from type 2 diabetes are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s Disease than those without diabetes. (5)
Sugar May Also Overwhelm The Small Intestine
(WXYZ) – Another problem with over-consumption of sugar is that is can overwhelm the small intestine. The small intestine has an important task of processing fructose. With natural occurring sugars like apples and other fruit, it does this flawlessly in most people. However when one is consistently eating processed foods and drinks that contain unnatural amounts of sugar, the small intestine gets overloaded and simply cannot process it on its own.
This excess sugar then is sent into the blood stream (leading to the problems we talked about above) and is also sent to the liver. When the liver becomes overwhelmed, one can develop fatty liver disease or other complicated health problems.
What You Can Do
There is just no way around it: over-consumption of sugar is one of the worst things you can do to your health. But it is incredible easy to eat too much sugar in America because it is added to EVERYTHING. Become conscious of what you are putting into your body. Read labels. The easiest way to avoid sugar is to focus your diet around whole, homemade, real foods that do not have an ingredients list.
- To satisfy your sweet tooth, eat fruit. Encourage your children to do the same. The body is built to properly digest natural sugar from fruits.
- With any other sugar you consume (added to food, sugar in drinks, sugar in processed snacks and treats) limit yourself to 6 teaspoons per day.
- Remove sugary products (besides fruit) from your home.
- Be very wary of artificial sweeteners. They may seem like an easy solution to going sugar-free but most of them come with their own health risks.