If someone in your family has Alzheimer’s, or you have friends whose parents have Alzheimer’s, you know that this is one hell of a devastating disease. What if you don’t know anyone with Alzheimer’s? Why should you care? The answer is clear: this neurodegenerative disease begins decades before symptoms appear. Decades! Regardless of age, the time to ward off future memory loss is now. That’s why I’ve explored the link between sugar and Alzheimer’s.
Sugar and Alzheimer’s: What Does the Research Say?
Let me preface this post by saying that Alzheimer’s research is dynamic, and there are many unknowns. This discussion of sugar and Alzheimer’s is narrow in scope and does not address genetic predisposition, repeated brain injuries, or other comorbid conditions.
Here’s what we know.
Insulin Resistance – Sugar and Alzheimer’s Disease
High sugar intake is difficult for the body to process and damaging, too. Diets high in sugary sodas, ice cream, and baked goods are the obvious culprits. But then there are the hidden sugars found in fruit yogurts, cereals, and energy bars along with many gluten free foods.
And it’s not just the obvious sugary foods. Eating foods with a high glycemic index — such as white bread, white pasta, white rice, and white potatoes — results in the body pouring out large amounts of insulin to keep glucose levels in check. When this happens repeatedly, our body’s cells become desensitized to the constant flood of insulin. Add in sedentary lifestyles, stress, and minimal restorative sleep and the result is insulin resistance.
Insulin resistance is a huge problem. Some doctors estimate that it affects over 50% of Americans. Insulin resistance increases the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart problems, strokes, and some cancers. It’s also thought to be linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
If you’re concerned about insulin resistance, ask your doctor to test your glucose and insulin status. I’ve read that your fasting insulin level should be 4.5 or below. Your fasting glucose should be 90 or lower. Your hemoglobin A1c should be less than 5.6%.
Inflammation – Sugar and Alzheimer’s Disease
We know that inflammation protects the body from infection and injury. But did you know that what we eat also triggers inflammation? When we consistently eat added sugars or refined carbohydrates, the result is low-level, but chronic inflammation. Over time, this chronic inflammation is linked to a number of diseases, including Alzheimer’s.
Remember that inflammation may be due to other dietary factors besides excess sugar and refined carbohydrates. Inflammation may also be caused by trans fats, poor oral hygiene, or a leaky gut.
If you’re concerned about inflammation, here are two blood tests to request from your doctor. There are others, but these are a good start.
High-sensitivity C-reactive protein (CRP) – CRP is a protein that’s made in the liver in response to any type of inflammation. The high sensitivity CRP should be below 0.9 mg/dL.
Fatty Acids – Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio – I discuss Omega-3s when I coach clients. It’s important to increase the level of Omega-3s because they are anti-inflammatory. The ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 should be 0.5 – 3.0.
Currently, there isn’t a cure for Alzheimer’s.
But the good news is that it’s possible to engage in lifestyle changes that stave off cognitive decline. This is true even if you have a genetic disposition to Alzheimer’s.
At Lady Moxy, I work with clients to reduce sugar cravings along many other health goals. The lifestyle factors needed to thwart serious health conditions, including cognitive decline, are integrated into my one-to-one coaching services.
What we eat is the most powerful decision we make each day in terms of our health. I work with clients on small habit changes that bring about improved health.
Exercise does not have to involve the gym, if that’s not your thing. The important exercise message is that a sedentary lifestyle is harmful. Try to integrate cardio exercise and strength training into your weekly routine.
A solid night’s sleep is critical for brain health. It’s not just sleep, but whether your sleep (6-8 hours) is restorative. Clients mention that when they don’t sleep well they crave sugar in the afternoon. I work with clients to address this issue.
Ongoing stress puts us at risk for a whole host of ailments and diseases. I address stress reduction with clients if that’s a significant factor in their professional or personal life.
All of these lifestyle topics are discussed in the Free Sugar Cravings Guide. Get it here.
If you’re ready to invest in your health, check out my Lady Moxy services here.