If you’ve been keeping up with the latest news on Alzheimer’s research, you may have heard it referred to as type 3 diabetes. That’s because the risk of Alzheimer’s disease is very much tied to sugar and carb intake. Are you concerned that you are at a higher risk for Alzheimer’s based on your family history? Well, the good news is that not all older adults experience cognitive decline with age. Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of aging. It all depends on the dietary and lifestyle choices you make over the course of your life. Sugar and carbohydrate intake is just one of them. It’s very possible to lower your risk factors with a healthy lifestyle.
What is Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, a general term for abnormal brain changes that interfere with daily life. As of 2020, 5.8 million Americans suffered from this condition. Sadly, researchers expect that number to triple by 2060. Alzheimer’s tends to worsen over time if no changes are made. The first sign is usually mild memory loss, but as the disease progresses, more and more symptoms appear.
The following are indicators of cognitive impairment:
- Short-term memory loss (forgetting meets or events, repeating oneself, relying on writing things down)
- Difficulty keeping track of money and paying bills
- Poor judgment
- Misplacing things
- Difficulty with familiar tasks at home or work (cooking, using a cell phone, typing).
- Confusion with time, dates, or places
- Difficulty with balance, navigating spaces, or judging distances
- Having trouble with finding words or using the correct word when speaking or writing
- Changes in personality, mood, or behaviors
- Withdrawal from social activities
Those with one or more of these warning signs should see a medical provider to be evaluated for Alzheimer’s disease. When the causes are addressed early in the disease process, there’s a better chance of reversing it.
What Causes Alzheimer’s?
Scientists have told us for years that Alzheimer’s is caused by beta-amyloid plaque in the brain. However, that theory has recently been called into question after some of the images in that landmark study were analyzed in 2021. It appears that they may have been tampered with.
Additionally, a study of nuns published in the journal Neurology in 2009 found that though they had high levels of beta-amyloid in their brains, they had high cognitive function until death. Clearly, there’s more going on than simply a buildup of plaque leading to Alzheimer’s.
Researchers tend to look for the one cause of disease so they can create a drug that addresses that cause. They don’t consider that there are multiple potential imbalances in the body that set a person up for dis-ease.
Risk factors for Alzheimer’s include:
- A lack of physical activity
- High blood pressure
- Dysregulated cholesterol
- High intake of added sugars
- Type 2 diabetes
- High blood sugar levels or prediabetes
- Weight gain/obesity
- Lack of cognitive engagement
Sugar plays a major role in Alzheimer’s. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, a high-sugar diet may increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. There is a link between high sugar intake, type 2 diabetes, and developing Alzheimer’s.
A few of the above risk factors go together. A lack of physical activity may contribute to weight gain or obesity. High blood pressure, dysregulated cholesterol, and high blood sugar are all components of insulin resistance, which is associated with type 2 diabetes.
All these signs and symptoms point to a few major imbalances within the body, which raise the risk of dementia.
Imbalances Found in Alzheimer’s
Two of the most common imbalances found in Alzheimer’s disease are insulin resistance and high levels of inflammation due to an overactive immune response. Interestingly, both are tied to sugar. There may also be issues with metabolizing glutamate, detoxifying harmful substances, and/or digestion and absorption.
Elevated levels of an amino acid (and neurotransmitter) called glutamate are common in Alzheimer’s patients. Glutamate toxicity is linked to neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. An excess of glutamate causes the death of neurons (brain cells). Glutamate is naturally produced in the body by the immune system – when it’s triggered by chronic inflammation. Inflammation is the inducer of every dis-ease on the planet!
Glutamate is also produced synthetically in a lab and added to foods as a flavor enhancer. You may have heard of it: It’s called monosodium glutamate or MSG. If you want to protect your brain cells, do your best to avoid MSG, which hides under many names. Not only is it toxic to the brain, but also to the cardiovascular system, gut, and hormones.
A diet that’s low in sugar and processed foods is essential for keeping inflammation under control.
Trauma, Toxins, and Thoughts
Of course, sugar isn’t the only contributor to Alzheimer’s Disease. While there’s often a genetic susceptibility for a specific disease, it’s the stressors we encounter on a regular basis that “pull the trigger” on creating dysfunction and disease. Again, we go back to trauma, toxins, and thoughts.
Trauma and Alzheimer’s
Both physical and emotional traumas have been shown to increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease:
- Physical trauma to the head – Traumatic Brain Injuries may increase the risk of Alzheimer’s over time.
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is also linked to brain inflammation and degeneration, which may lead to Alzheimer’s.
- Childhood trauma – Early childhood stressors can alter the structure of the brain, causing changes in cognition and increasing the risk of Alzheimer’s.
Sometimes traumatic experiences are also combined with toxins, doubling the effect.
Toxins and Alzheimer’s
There are several toxins associated with Alzheimer’s, including toxic metals like aluminum, infections like Lyme spirochetes, and innocent-looking sugar – in all its forms.
- Metal toxicity: Aluminum, Lead, and Cadmium.
- Mycotoxins (mold toxins) from molds such as Stachybotrys, Penicillium, or Aspergillus, common in water-damaged buildings, and the resulting Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS) have been linked to Alzheimer’s.
- Lyme disease – Borrelia burgdorferi is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s.
- Vaccines (a source of metals and other toxins), including the COVID injection.
- Medications like benzodiazepines.
- Cigarette smoking increases the risk of Alzheimer’s.
- Heavy alcohol use is also linked to brain degeneration.
- SUGAR (white sugar, brown sugar, high fructose corn syrup, coconut sugar, date sugar, agave, maple syrup… and many more).
The body also creates toxins through its everyday metabolic processes, which, when not properly broken down and eliminated may contribute to Alzheimer’s. Sleep issues may prevent this detoxification process.
Thoughts and Alzheimer’s
Stress leads to toxic thoughts, which may also contribute to brain inflammation and ultimately, Alzheimer’s. Elevated levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, are linked to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s. Stress can come from many sources:
- Emotional stress from marriage, financial, or other issues
- Watching the news (fear/worry)
- Overwhelm by major life changes, such as marriage, a new baby, graduation, divorce, or even moving to a new city.
- Holding a grudge/pent up anger
- Grief/feelings of loss
These traumas, toxins, and thoughts add up and synergistically increase inflammation and risk of dis-ease in the body and brain.
The Swiss Watch and Alzheimer’s
The systems of the human body work together like the gears of a Swiss Watch. Each of the gears affects all the others. That means if something is out of balance in one area of the body, it will have consequences for other areas. Here are a few examples:
Gut Dysbiosis and Alzheimer’s
A new study (2022) published in Frontiers in Neurology found a pathway beginning in the gut and ending in the brain with an inflammation-causing toxin. This toxin comes from the bacteria Bacteroides fragilis in the gastrointestinal tract. It generates a neurotoxin called BF-LPS. LPS stands for lipopolysaccharides and BF refers to the Bacteroides fragilis.
Lipopolysaccharides (LPS) are generated through gut dysbiosis and leak into the bloodstream when a person has a “leaky gut” or hyperpermeability of the intestinal lining. The LPS then crosses the blood-brain barrier and increases inflammation in brain cells, ultimately leading to cell death.
BF-LPS is a natural part of metabolism within the microbiome. The problem comes in when there’s a leaky gut and when this toxin becomes too high due to an imbalance in gut bacteria. How do you keep it at bay? By getting enough fiber in your diet, avoiding inflammation-causing sugar, and healing the gut.
Immune Responses to Food
A very common cause of chronic inflammation throughout the body is unknown food allergies. Every time you eat the foods that you’re sensitive to there’s an immune response and inflammation goes up. As mentioned, chronic inflammation triggers glutamate release, which is toxic to brain cells. That’s why it’s so important to get your food allergies tested – both IgE and IgG. Food is one thing we subject our bodies to every single day.
Knowing which foods cause us inflammation and then avoiding them can be a powerful way to keep inflammation at bay, preserving our precious brains from injury – at least injury from food allergy-related inflammation.
Sugar is Granulated (or Liquid) Inflammation
Whether or not someone has an allergy to cane sugar or corn syrup, sugar increases inflammation. High levels of blood glucose cause inflammation and damage to the blood vessels throughout the body, including the brain. Not only does this lead to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke, but it also causes changes in the memory center of the brain, the hippocampus. Ultimately, this can lead to a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.
Here are a few other ways sugar contributes to Alzheimer’s Dementia:
- Sugar lowers brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which is important for learning and memory
- Sugar followed by a low blood sugar crash lowers acetylcholine, an important memory-related neurotransmitter
- Sugar increases glutamate, causing the loss of brain cells
- Sugar and inflammation trigger the sympathetic nervous system putting the body in an emergency state (“fight-or-flight”)
Sugar can also interfere with nutrient absorption by altering the gut at the metabolism.
Nutrient Deficiencies in Alzheimer’s Disease
Certain nutrient deficiencies are also associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s Disease:
- Low vitamin B12 levels are linked to Alzheimer’s. The deficiency may be caused by dietary choices, reduced absorption, or medication interference.
- Low levels of omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and other B vitamins may also play a part in cognitive decline.
- Low vitamin D levels are associated with a significantly increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Nutrient deficiencies impact many systems of the body, including hormones.
Hormones Matter to the Brain!
Hormones levels – deficiency, excess, or imbalance– are another thing to consider when it comes to Alzheimer’s Disease. Low levels of estradiol, progesterone, testosterone, insulin, or vitamin D can cause brain function to suffer. This imbalance especially affects women as they approach menopause and hormone levels decline. The DUTCH test is a comprehensive hormone panel that checks all these levels to see whether the endocrine system needs a boost to support brain health.
The Wellness Way Approach to Brain Health
You can preserve or improve your brain health! The key is to remove the factors that lower cognitive function, whether that’s high glucose or insulin levels, food allergies, infections, toxicity, low hormones, or chronically high stress levels. Reach out to a Wellness Way clinic to get testing done for you or a loved one. There may be several factors at play, but you won’t know until you test. Wellness Way practitioners can help find the factors contributing to cognitive decline. They can also recommend supportive herbal, vitamin, or mineral supplements backed by scientific research. Reversing or slowing cognitive decline is possible. Contact a clinic today!
- What is Alzheimer’s Disease? | CDC
- 10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s (cdc.gov)
- Potential fabrication in research images threatens key theory of Alzheimer’s disease | Science | AAAS
- The Nun study: clinically silent AD, neuronal hypertrophy, and linguistic skills in early life – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Diabetes and Cognitive Decline (alz.org)
- Chronic Glutamate Toxicity in Neurodegenerative Diseases-What is the Evidence? – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Glutamate-induced neuronal death: a succession of necrosis or apoptosis depending on mitochondrial function – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Patho-physiological and toxicological aspects of monosodium glutamate – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Association between the MTHFR gene and Alzheimer’s disease: a meta-analysis – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Traumatic Brain Injury as a Risk Factor for Alzheimer’s Disease: Is Inflammatory Signaling a Key Player? – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Frontiers | Mast Cell Activation in Brain Injury, Stress, and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder and Alzheimer’s Disease Pathogenesis (frontiersin.org)
- Early Life Epidemiology of Alzheimer’s Disease–A Critical Review – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Can infections cause Alzheimer’s disease? – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Metal Toxicity Links to Alzheimer’s Disease and Neuroinflammation – PMC (nih.gov)
- Inhalational Alzheimer’s disease: an unrecognized – and treatable – epidemic – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Plaques of Alzheimer’s disease originate from cysts of Borrelia burgdorferi, the Lyme disease spirochete – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Borrelia burgdorferi as a risk factor for Alzheimer’s dementia and mild cognitive impairment – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Scientist Sounds Alarm: COVID Vaccines Producing Symptoms of Parkinson’s, Other Neurodegenerative Disorders • Children’s Health Defense (childrenshealthdefense.org)
- Benzodiazepine Use in Older Adults: Dangers, Management, and Alternative Therapies – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Smoking and increased Alzheimer’s disease risk: A review of potential mechanisms – PMC (nih.gov)
- Alcohol use and dementia: a systematic scoping review – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Impact of sleep on the risk of cognitive decline and dementia – PubMed (nih.gov)
- High Cortisol and the Risk of Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease: A Review of the Literature – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Frontiers | Downregulation of Neurofilament Light Chain Expression in Human Neuronal-Glial Cell Co-Cultures by a Microbiome-Derived Lipopolysaccharide-Induced miRNA-30b-5p (frontiersin.org)
- Food Allergies: The Basics – PMC (nih.gov)
- Impact of sugar on the body, brain, and behavior – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and type 2 diabetes – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Regional acetylcholine metabolism in brain during acute hypoglycemia and recovery – PubMed (nih.gov)
- The interplay of neurotransmitters in Alzheimer’s disease – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Mechanistic Link between Vitamin B12 and Alzheimer’s Disease – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Vitamin D and the risk of dementia and Alzheimer disease – PMC (nih.gov)