The Alzheimer’s and Sugar Connection

There are plenty of good reasons why you want to kick sugar out of your life, but keeping your brain intact is the latest and maybe the most important.

Brain

Most people will agree that one of their greatest fear is death, but what people fear even more than dying is the loss of their mental capabilities. No one wants to forget loved ones and cherished memories, not to mention forgetting how to tie their shoes, or needing help to go to the bathroom.

While the exact reasons why we get Alzheimer’s disease remain a mystery, scientist have recently made astounding discoveries that point to a connection between Alzheimer’s and sugar consumption. If the bulk of Alzheimer’s disease can be blamed on eating sugars and foods that act like sugar, then we have a great opportunity to avoid the mental decay we see so often in the elderly.

New Alzheimer’s Discoveries

Scientists have discovered some pretty interesting things about people with Alzheimer’s.

First, scientists discovered that the brain produces insulin. This is astounding because it was previously thought that the only place in the body that produce insulin was the pancreas. What’s more, the amount of insulin in the brain produces plummets in Alzheimer’s patients as the disease progresses. In fact, on of the signs of the beginning of the disease is a noticeable drop in brain insulin. Scientists are beginning to wonder if the progression of the disease can actually be measured by the amount of brain insulin.

These findings point to the possibility of insulin resistance developing in the brain separate from the rest of the body.

Insulin is a hormone and it doesn’t travel alone in the brain. There are other chemicals in the brain known as insulin-like growth factors  and these also decrease when insulin decreases. It is the absence of these insulin-like growth factors that are thought to lead to brain cell death, and the brain cell death occurs especially in areas responsible for memory such as the hippocampus and hypothalamus.

Alzheimer’s Sugar Connection

It has long been known that people with diabetes have a greater chance of getting Alzheimer’s disease, but these new studies are the first to show that there may be a closer relationship between sugar and Alzheimer’s disease. For puzzling reasons, the two diseases are interrelated, but not the same disease. Some people who have diabetes don’t get Alzheimer’s and some people with Alzheimer’s disease don’t have diabetes.

The key question is what causes insulin to drop in the brain? If insulin production in the brain is similar to what happens to the rest of the body, then the drop in insulin is due to an overworked system that is constantly overloaded with too much blood sugar.

Avoid the Inevitable

There are so many diseases we see as inevitable: heart disease, cancer, dementia, arthritis. If you are growing old, you are bound to get one or all of those diseases.

It doesn’t have to be that way! You can avoid a majority of those diseases (including Alzheimer’s) by choosing the foods you eat wisely. The best way to stop or reduce sugar is to take my 30 Sugar Free Days Challenge. It is a great program that leads you from your current high sugar path to a healthier path.

Update

Since I originally wrote this article, new information has come to light.

Not only is sugar destroying our brains but there are proteins inside grains (especially wheat and especially gluten) that have a dramatic impact on the way we think and how healthy our brains are. I’ll be writing a new post about it sometime soon, but for now take a look at this book:Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar–Your Brain’s Silent Killers

About the Author

I'm Dr. Scott Olson ND. I'm a Naturopathic doctor who specializes in diet, health, nutrition, and alternative medicine. I've written numerous books and articles on health, medicine, and alternative medicine I want to help you get healthy! Take a look at my blog and make sure you join in the conversation!

57 Comments on this article. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. Lynetta Hughes November 2, 2016 at 9:46 pm -

    I’m wondering what can I give as a sugar substitute? my patient already liss her sight, hearing can hardly get around and the only real joy she has id,enjoying her food. while ii found recipies I can yse, she enjoys hit tea so can I use coconut sugar or palm sugar or almond sugar instead of white?

    • Dr. Scott November 3, 2016 at 10:01 am -

      Hi Lynetta,

      All of those sugars (coconut, palm, almond) act exactly like white sugar. You can try stevia, but I’m not a big fan of stevia either. When you remove sugar from someone’s diet, they often have a hard time, but then they adjust.

      Dr. Scott

  2. Beckah October 9, 2016 at 12:45 pm -

    I care for alzheimer’s patients. All of them have an insatiable appetite for sweets. I wonder if this is because their brains are craving energy, since they cannot access ketones for the primary fuel for their brains, since their brains are insulin resistant.

    • Dr. Scott October 10, 2016 at 7:19 am -

      Beckah,

      Yes, they are craving sugars because their brains are not getting enough energy. It is hard to say which came first, though: could the people who crave sugar all the time be the ones who end up with Alzheimer’s? Actually, switching to ketones (like coconut oil) seems to help because it provides an alternative energy source.

      Good luck in your work!

      Dr. Scott