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Digital Subscriptions > Well Being Journal > January/February 2016 > A Nutritional Approach to Prevent & Heal Alzheimer's Metabolic Syndrome

A Nutritional Approach to Prevent & Heal Alzheimer's Metabolic Syndrome

IDENTIFYING THE FUNDAMENTAL causes of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is imperative. Addressing the challenge of AD at its source is the best hope for preventing, slowing the progression of, and possibly even reversing this form of neurodegeneration. The vast majority of pharmaceutical drugs targeting the condition have failed to demonstrate any beneficial effects. In fact, some initially promising drugs have actually made the signs and symptoms of AD worse.1

An examination of the scientific literature regarding the causes of AD reveals a wealth of information indicating that the condition is a result of metabolic abnormalities that start outside the brain. It affects the entire body, but health care professionals often miss the signs until damage to the brain is so deep and widespread that it begins to cause cognitive decline that interferes with everyday living. This renders formerly strong, capable people unable to care for themselves and live independently.

The research is unambiguous: AD results primarily from a failure of the brain to properly use glucose as a fuel. The connection between glucose handling, insulin signaling, and AD is so strong that many study authors now refer to AD as “diabetes of the brain” or “type 3 diabetes.”2 Although type 2 diabetes and AD are closely associated, it’s incorrect to say that type 2 diabetes causes AD. Many type 2 diabetics will never go on to develop AD, and many AD patients are not diagnosed as diabetic. The relationship between the two is more like that of physiological cousins. That is, they result from the same underlying metabolic imbalances but manifest differently depending on which parts of the body are affected. In type 2 diabetes, the way glucose is handled and insulin signaling occurs primarily affects the muscles, organs, and peripheral parts of the body. In AD, damage is mostly localized to the brain.

Metabolic Syndrome and the Role of the Modern Diet

Research strongly indicates AD is ultimately the result of a metabolic disturbance similar to that seen in type 2 diabetes—namely, insulin resistance and hyperinsulinemia (elevated levels of insulin in the bloodstream for extended periods of time). Although the current dietary recommendations from government health agencies and medical organizations are slowly shifting, we now know that more than sixty years of advice was based on skewed scientific findings regarding saturated fats and cholesterol. This misinformation led to a modern industrialized diet that is low in total fat and cholesterol and has an emphasis on carbohydrates—specifically grains (wheat, corn, rice, etc.)—as the primary source of calories. The few fats that were recommended were vegetable oils, such as soybean and corn oils, which are high in fragile, easily oxidized polyunsaturated fatty acids. Medical professionals erroneously cautioned us away from the more stable saturated fats derived from animal foods and tropical plants, such as coconut and palm oils.

In addition, our modern diet is generally lower in phytonutrientand antioxidant-rich dark green vegetables and brightly colored vegetables and fruits than was the diet our robust, healthy ancestors consumed. The majority of the plant foods we now consume are starchy carbohydrate sources, such as wheat, potatoes, and corn. This deficient diet of the past sixty or so years has been linked to modern conditions as diverse as obesity, heart disease, acne, poor eyesight, polycystic ovarian syndrome, and cancer.3,4 When the physiological and biochemical effects of these foods, coupled with a lack of micronutrient-rich vegetables and whole, unprocessed, naturally occurring animal fats, start affecting cognitive function later in life, we can add AD to the list of conditions caused by this dietary derailment.

The brain is an extremely energy-hungry organ. Although it typically accounts for just 2 percent of total body weight, it uses around 20 percent of the body’s glucose and oxygen.5 Considering the brain’s disproportionate consumption of fuel, it is not unreasonable to hypothesize that anything that interferes with fuel delivery or processing in the brain will have dramatic effects on memory, emotions, behavior, and cognition.

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About Well Being Journal

This is our 25th anniversary year, and with our new January/February 2016 issue we present a seminal piece by Amy Berger, MS, NTP, that presents clear research showing how Alzheimer’s disease starts with consumption of too many sugars; this impairs glucose metabolism and leads to plaque in the brain. Next Katrina Blair extols the virtues of the edible “weed” purslane. Bruce Weinstein, PhD, in “Patience,” shows the remarkable benefits patience reaps. Mike Dow’s feature, “Digital Distraction & Mindfulness,” suggests that constant connection to digital devices has an overall deleterious impact, and he offers delicious mindfulness practices to help improve quality of life. Ann and Ross Rosen discuss the importance of moderate exercise in daily life, and Shannon McRae explains how energy medicine as nature’s assistant is much more powerful when the receiver’s intention is in alignment with that of the healer’s. Finally, Laura Coffey tells the story of a special nursing home companion, a loving golden retriever named Rocky, and his positive impact on the residents. We present all of this in our first issue of the year, and more than we can mention, including a plethora of scintillating research notes.