How Sugar Harms Your Brain and Drives Alzheimer’s Epidemic
Alzheimer’s disease, a severe form of dementia, affects more than 6 million Americans, according to 2022 statistics.1 One in 9 seniors over the age of 65 has Alzheimer’s; and the disease kills more than breast and prostate cancers combined.
A growing body of research suggests there’s a powerful connection between your diet and your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, via similar pathways that cause type 2 diabetes. Seventy-three percent of people with Alzheimer’s are over age 75; two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer’s are women.
Contrary to popular belief, your brain does not require glucose, and actually functions better burning alternative fuels, especially ketones, which your body makes in response to digesting healthy fats.
According to experts at Emory School of Medicine, Alzheimer’s and other brain disorders are associated with proteins that regulate glucose metabolism. Previously, they had determined that abnormalities in the process by which the brain breaks down glucose were associated with amyloid plaques in the brain and the onset of memory loss.
Interestingly, Alzheimer’s disease was tentatively dubbed “Type 3 diabetes” in early 20052 when researchers discovered that in addition to your pancreas, your brain also produces insulin, and this brain insulin is necessary for the survival of brain cells.
“What we found is that insulin is not just produced in the pancreas, but also in the brain,” researchers said in a press release at the time. “And we discovered that insulin and its growth factors, which are necessary for the survival of brain cells, contribute to the progression of Alzheimer’s.”
In your brain, insulin helps with neuron glucose-uptake and the regulation of neurotransmitters, such as acetylcholine, which are crucial for memory and learning. This is why reducing the level of insulin in your brain impairs your cognition.