Alzheimer’s Linked to Diet and New Type 3 Diabetes

An unhealthy diet not only is bad for your waist, it may also trigger Alzheimer’s disease. New information is leading researchers to wonder whether Alzheimer’s may be a new version of diabetes, tentatively called type 3 diabetes, which hits the brain.

In the brain, insulin helps neurons process glucose for energy and regulates processes crucial for memory and learning. Reducing the level of insulin in the brain can immediately impair cognition. Spatial memory, in particular, seems to suffer when you block insulin uptake.

When people frequently gorge on fatty or sugary food, the insulin levels in their body spike repeatedly. Muscle, liver and fat cells stop responding to the insulin, causing glucose and fat to flood the system. Desperately, the pancreas tries to make more insulin to control the glucose, but the body is already overloaded.

New research shows that the brain may also become overwhelmed by these food-driven insulin spikes and become insulin resistant, impairing memory and cognition functions. Using cadaver brains, Steven Arnold at the University of Pennsylvania bathed various samples in insulin; tissue from people who had not had Alzheimer’s seemed to spring back to life, triggering a variety of seemingly synaptic reactions. In contrast, the neurons of those who had had Alzheimer’s barely reacted at all. Their insulin signaling had been paralyzed.

The connection between diet and brain health is evident. Staying away from harmful fats and sweets can prevent brain tissue from becoming insulin resistant. Likewise, eating foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants will help the brain manage insulin more efficiently and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s. — Source: Reader’s Digest, February 2013