Control your blood sugar, prevent Alzheimer’s disease
Nearly 6 million Americans live with Alzheimer’s disease. By 2050, that number is expected to more than double to around 14 million. One in three seniors dies of Alzheimer’s disease or some other form of dementia.1
These are scary stats. They mean that nearly everyone has a loved one, or knows someone, who suffers with or died from Alzheimer’s disease. I certainly do.
But new research is showing a surprising correlation between aspects of your diet and increased risk of Alzheimer’s…and I wish I’d learned about it years ago.
My grandmother started showing signs around the age of 83. It was a slow decline at first. She lived alone in her small townhome for a few years while my mom (her daughter) checked in on her regularly. She was forgetful, but managed to get around without too much trouble.
Things got bad after about three years, though, when Mom visited her one chilly winter morning and found that all four burners on the gas stove were on, and unattended. Grandma told her that she was cold and turned on both the stove and oven to heat her house. Apparently, they were on all night, endangering not only her life but the lives of all of her neighbors!
My mom acted quickly, moving my grandmother into an assisted living facility, where she thrived at first. But Alzheimer’s is an unrelenting disease. The speed at which this monster ravaged my grandmother’s brain soon necessitated round-the-clock care. Within a year, she had to be moved into a nursing home, where she spent the last three years of her life. When I used to visit her, it’s like she would stare through me, she had no idea who I was.
My story isn’t unique. This is how Alzheimer’s works. It not only robs victims of their cherished memories and independence, it robs loved ones too. I spent years mourning the loss of my grandmother while she sat right in front of me, still very much alive.
Sadly, effective Alzheimer’s treatments—and a cure—remain elusive. To this day still, the best thing you can do is take steps to prevent it.
Of course, prevention isn’t a surefire thing. However, research is showing clear associations that point to one possible cause of Alzheimer’s: blood sugar problems.
How Blood Sugar and Alzheimer’s Are Connected
In 2005, a study released by Brown Medical School found that Alzheimer’s was linked to problems with insulin signaling. That’s when the term “Type 3 diabetes” was coined. Essentially, researchers discovered that Alzheimer’s is almost like another form of diabetes.
High-sugar, high-carbohydrate foods are quickly broken down into sugar. Sensing this increase in blood sugar, the pancreas releases insulin into the blood. That insulin tells cells to grab the sugar (glucose) and convert it to energy.
Once the cells reach capacity, though, the excess glucose in the blood has to go somewhere. The body ends up storing it as glycogen—a form of sugar that is stored in the muscles and liver. Whatever sugar is left over in the blood is turned into triglycerides.
When you consider the standard American diet, which is notoriously high in sugar and simple carbs, this cycle is repeated over and over every day in millions of Americans. Eventually, the cells start ignoring insulin altogether. It’s the body’s way of saying, “How many times do we have to go through this before you realize you are eating too much sugar!” When your body no longer responds to insulin’s directives, you have insulin resistance. It’s the beginnings of diabetes.
Circling back to Alzheimer’s… the 2005 study determined that the brain cells of Alzheimer’s patients are actually insulin resistant. They stop taking in glucose, and without that energy, they stop working as they should. This eventually leads to Alzheimer’s symptoms, as well as the plaques and tangles that are so common in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.
Simply put, over time, great quantities of sugar and carbohydrates can become toxic to the brain.
Taken a step further, the breakdown of glucose can harm proteins in cells via a process called glycation. In the early stages of Alzheimer’s, glycation damages an enzyme that plays a role in insulin regulation and also protects against the buildup of abnormal plaques and tangles. So, the inhibition of this particular enzyme could also lead to the progression of Alzheimer’s.
If you don’t have insulin resistance or diabetes, you aren’t off the hook. Simply eating a lot of sugary junk food, and/or being obese, puts you at increased risk of this series of brain-damaging events.
Lower Your Blood Sugar with Diet and Supplements
If you want to lower your blood sugar (and in turn protect your brain), there is really only one solution…a low-sugar diet. Once you have a handle on that, taking blood sugar-lowering supplements can give you an extra boost in controlling erratic blood sugar levels.
You don’t have to follow a specific diet—though the Paleo, ketogenic, and Mediterranean diets are all excellent choices when it comes to limiting processed sugar and high-carbohydrate foods. If you simply focus on eating whole foods 90% of the time—veggies, fruits, lean meats and proteins, nuts, seeds, legumes, and occasional dairy—you will go a long way in eliminating the blood sugar roller coaster that almost always results from the standard American diet.
Supplements for Blood Sugar…and Brain
There are several nutritional supplements that help to control blood sugar—with the far-reaching benefit of also protecting your brain:
- Curcumin, the ultimate natural anti-inflammatory, has been shown to decrease risk of Alzheimer’s by interfering with the pathway that leads to plaques and tangles. It has also been found to help control diabetes and its complications, including those caused by the process of glycation.3-4 We recommend 500 mg daily in a highly absorbable form, like Curcumin EX Plus.
- Berberine, a compound found in plants like barberry and goldenseal, has been found to be as effective as prescription drugs for lowering blood sugar.5 The recommended dosage is 500 mg two to three times a day.
- Chromium, a trace mineral, helps transport sugar from the blood into the cells, where it can be used for fuel. We recommend 100–200 mcg daily.
- Gymnemna sylvestre is an herb that helps block sugar absorption in the intestines and also increases insulin production. The recommended dosage is 100 mg a day.
You can take the above nutrients separately, or find a product that includes all of them in a single formula, such as Complete Glucose Solution.
Finally, be sure to take a high-quality multivitamin supplement—like LifeMax Multivitamin—to replenish levels of vitamins A, B, C, E, and magnesium, all of which play a role in blood sugar regulation.
- Alzheimer’s Association. https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/facts-figures. Last accessed Nov. 12, 2019.
- Steen E, et al. Impaired insulin and insulin-like growth factor expression and signaling mechanisms in Alzheimer’s disease—is this type 3 diabetes? J Alzheimers Dis. 2005;7(1):63–80. Last accessed Nov. 12, 2019.
- Huang HC, et al. Curcumin-primed exosomes potently ameliorate cognitive function in AD mice by inhibiting hyperphosphorylation of the Tau protein through the AKT/GSK-3β pathway. J Recept Signal Transduct Res. 2014 Feb;34(1):26–37. Last accessed Nov. 12, 2019.
- Nabavi SF, et al. Curcumin: a natural product for diabetes and its complications. Curr Top Med Chem. 2015;15(23):2445–55. Last accessed Nov. 12, 2019.
- Lan J. Meta-analysis of the effect and safety of berberine in the treatment of type 2 diabetes mellitus, hyperlipemia and hypertension. J Ethnopharmacol 2015 Feb 23;161:69–81. Last accessed Nov. 12, 2019.
Last Updated: November 20, 2019