Alzheimer’s Disease is the New Type 3 Diabetes: Are You at Risk?
We all know someone that has suffered from or has had a family member suffer from Alzheimer’s or Dementia. It’s often considered to be part of aging or due to bad genes, but what if some Alzheimer’s and Dementia can be prevented by a healthy lifestyle? Think about how much suffering would be relieved. Well folks, there is a “newish” diabetes in town. Type 3 Diabetes, which is also being called Brain Diabetes, was introduced in 2005 by a team of researchers in Rhode Island- lead by Susan De La Monte. I know what you are thinking…what does the brain and diabetes have to do with one another? Read this guest blog post by Rachel Albaum- Registered Dietitian and Integrative Nutritionist.
Insulin and the common types of diabetes
Insulin is a hormone that helps the body utilize blood sugar by acting as a receptor that opens the door of cells to allow the sugar to go in and then be transported and used for energy. Insulin is “primarily” produced by beta cells on the pancreas. There are 2 major types of Diabetes. First, is the less common one, Type 1 Diabetes. Individuals with Type 1 are insulin dependent, meaning the body does not produce any insulin due to an autoimmune attack that occurs on the pancreas. The more common one seen in the population is Type 2 Diabetes. It is non-insulin dependent, meaning, at least initially, the body still produces insulin however the body does not recognize it or there is not enough to get sugar into the cells. Over the past years we have added Type 1.5 which is kind of a cross between type 1 and 2 and referred to as Lada Diabetes and there is also Gestation Diabetes. But ultimately the main correlation of Diabetes is the body (specifically the pancreas) either does not make insulin or the body does not respond to insulin being produced to regulate blood sugars… so again, how the heck does Diabetes correlate to Alzheimer’s Disease??
Alzheimer’s Disease explained
Alzheimer’s Disease is a type of Dementia and is a degenerative brain disorder that causes progressive deterioration of memory and cognition due to twisted fibers of protein in cells and plaque build-up around nerve cells called beta amyloids. In the United States, the prevalence of Alzheimer’s has increased at an alarming rate with only 2% of the population in 1960 to currently presenting in 20% of individuals from ages 75-84 years old. Many correlate this with the fact that we are living longer, but Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of aging. Scientists still do not know the exact cause of the disease, but several studies indicate other reasons for the increase. These include insulin resistance, chronic inflammation, oxidative stress, toxin exposure, DNA, and mitochondrial dysfunction.
Tying it together
Research has found that the body does not only produce insulin in the pancreas, but there is also a small amount that is produced by the brain! If there is insulin resistance in the brain it is associated with poor uptake of sugar by the brain cells and the inflammation that occurs can lead to more beta amyloid plaque and damage and in return reduces cognitive function.Type 2 Diabetics are 2x more likely to develop Alzheimer’s or Dementia, and in fact, obesity can increase the risk by 3x because of the vascular formations that occur in the brain from the insulin resistance. However, there have been studies done that reveal it can occur completely dependent of having either. Hence, the “new” Diabetes in town-Type 3 Diabetes or Brain Diabetes.
OK, what can you do?
Early prevention is key! It’s hard to get brain function back once the damage occurs. And, like anything, diet and lifestyle are the major components to preventing Type 3 Diabetes.
Fact, our diet in the United States is SAD- which stands for “Standard American Diet”. Most of the population tends to consume extremely excessive amounts of sugar and processed foods (which convert into sugar very quickly when consumed) and very little intake of nutrient dense foods- i.e. high fiber from whole fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, legumes, and beans. Following a diet low in glycemic index, full of veggies and less processed foods will help to reduce inflammation, insulin resistance, oxidative stress, and mitochondrial damage. My big piece of advice- when you think you are eating enough veggies, eat more and eat a variety! Studies have also indicated the high amounts of nitrates in our food may be correlated to increased risk of Alzheimer’s. When possible, limit processed meats and other foods with nitrate addictives.
A few extra bonus tips:
- Omega 3 fatty acids: DHA/EPA are brain food and help reduce inflammation. Consume wild & fresh caught fish, olive oil, avocados, olives, walnuts, and ground flax seeds. (PS: the brain also really likes fats)
- Vitamin D: is also crucial although not found abundant in food sources. Wild salmon, mushrooms, and eggs are the top good sources. And let’s not forget the Sun!
- B Vitamins: Studies are a bit controversial with this one- but I still say add it! Especially because B vitamins such as folate, B6, and B12 help reduce homocysteine levels which helps to reduce oxidative stress. Food sources: folate can be found in green leafy vegetables, beans, lentils, peas, and whole grains. B6 can be found predominantly in nuts, seeds, and fish. B12 is found in animal products like meat, poultry, fish, and eggs. For a vegetarian option- nutritional yeast is a good one.
- Antioxidants: Help to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress. Foods high in Vitamin C- citrus fruits, broccoli, and tomatoes. Berries of all kinds are amazing, red wine (moderation large amounts can increase risk), tea, coffee, and even dark chocolate (make sure it is greater than 70% cocoa).
- Magnesium-Evidence is limited, but Magnesium is a key nutrient for brain function. Sources include- nuts, seeds, legumes, beans,
dark chocolate, and dark green leafy vegetables.
- Zinc- Deficiency is common with aging and has been shown to be a risk factor for Alzheimer’s and Diabetes due to inducing insulin resistance. Food sources high in Zinc- seafood but especially oysters are the highest source, lamb and meat, nuts, seeds, dark chocolate (again), and spinach.
- Spice it up: cinnamon, sage, turmeric, ginger, and cayenne are some great options with extra benefits for brain health and blood sugar.
- Other important things to note: exercise has been shown to have huge impact on preventing dementia. It is recommended to exercise 4-5x/week. Sleep is also crucial and recommended 7-9 hours a night. Stress reduction and healthy guts are all vital to promote overall health and well-being and important for brain function.
- Supplements to consider: Multivitamin with Minerals, Omega 3 Fatty Acids, B Complex, Vitamin D, Magnesium, Zinc (if deficient), Coq10, and Probiotics. Always consult with your doctor, nutritionist, or other healthcare professional prior to starting supplements.
Rachel Albaum is a Registered Dietitian, Certified Diabetes Educator, Yogi, and Integrative and Functional Nutrition Certified Practitioner with over 12 years of nutrition counseling experience, Rachel is the owner of Inner Compass Nutrition. a private practice in Westchester, NY. You can follow her on Instagram @innercompassnutrition, on Facebook or on her website at InnerCompass Nutrition
I especially love problem-solving, whether it’s helping women defeat issues plaguing them for years, helping a busy executive find practical ways to get heart healthy, or providing tips to help you reverse diabetes. That’s why I’m on a constant quest to expand my knowledge by staying on top of the latest research.