Not another story telling us to cut back on junk food!
Well, you might want to sit up and pay attention to this one, since it appears that there could be a direct link between eating a poor diet loaded with fat, sugars and salt, and developing Alzheimer’s.
Just a few years ago, it was discovered that people with type 2 diabetes are much more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than healthy people of the same age group.
The idea that Alzheimer’s might be Type 3 diabetes has been around since 2005, but the connection between poor diet and Alzheimer’s is becoming more convincing, as summarized in the September 1 cover story in New Scientist entitled “Food for Thought: What You Eat May Be Killing Your Brain.” (It was accompanied by a weird graphic of a chocolate brain with a huge piece missing.)
George Monbiot, writing in The Guardian, describes how he has become obsessed with this idea since reading the New Scientist story, and has spent hours sitting in the library, trying to discover whether it holds water. Having read dozens of papers on the subject, he concludes that the evidence is compelling, even though there is a lot more research to be done.
From The Guardian:
About 35 million people suffer from Alzheimer’s disease worldwide; current projections, based on the rate at which the population ages, suggest that this will rise to 100 million by 2050. But if, as many scientists now believe, it is caused largely by the brain’s impaired response to insulin, the numbers could rise much further.
In the United States, the percentage of the population with type 2 diabetes, which is strongly linked to obesity, has almost trebled [sic] in 30 years. If Alzheimer’s, or “type 3 diabetes”, goes the same way, the potential for human suffering is incalculable.
This all takes on a personal note for me, as I watch my mother-in-law sink into dementia. This is a heartbreaking experience for her and for her family. She has a tiny frame, which seems to be shrinking away, and has never been overweight, but she does like to indulge in non-nutritive sweets such as cookies, coffee cake and packaged donuts. As her disease has progressed, it seems that these are the only kinds of food she truly enjoys eating.
The word “dementia”of course refers to a set of symptoms, not the disease itself. These symptoms might include language difficulty, loss of recent memory or poor judgment. For my mother-in-law, it means that she asks me the same question perhaps 15 times a day, never realizing that she is repeating herself, and never remembering the answer.
With a thorough screening including blood tests, a mental status evaluation, neuropsychological testing and sometimes a brain scan, doctors can accurately diagnose the cause of the dementia symptoms in 90 percent of the cases. Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60-70 percent of cases of dementia.
The evidence for the poor diet and Alzheimer’s connection is strong, but not definitive. But if you need an incentive to purge yourself of unhealthy amounts of fat, sugars and salt, this should do it.
Why not shop around the perimeters of your local grocery store, picking up fresh fruit and veggies, whole dairy and fresh meat or fish, if you eat it? Erasing soda, donuts, processed meats and fries from your diet could allow you to keep your mind intact until your body fails you.
Now put down that soda!
Photo Credit: thinkstock
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