Silent & Smoldering
Blood Sugar Changes the Brain Years Before the First Symptoms
Twenty-five years before the first clinical symptoms, blood sugar has already produced permanent changes in the brain. Who knew? New research published in the New England Journal of Medicine traces the timeline of cognitive decline, challenging current perceptions about this devastating disease.
Fifteen years before the onset of symptoms, plaque formation begins. These plaques are visible on noninvasive PET-CT scans of the brain. Atrophy, or shrinking of the brain tissue, also starts around this time.
Ten years before the onset of clinical cognitive impairment, parts of the brain become hypometabolic, or less active. There is also subtle impairment in memory, involving the recollection of specific events.
(A Short 13 Minute Video — Brain on Fire)
Statistics are grim. Ten percent (10%) of 65-year-olds, 25% of 75-year-olds, and 50% of 85-year-olds will develop dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. And the fastest growing segment of our population is the 85-year-olds. Researchers predict Alzheimer’s will affect 106 million people by 2050. But don’t believe that too much insulin only affects older folks’ memories. It doesn’t just suddenly occur once you’re older. Dementia actually begins when you’re younger and takes decades to develop and worsen. So Alzheimer’s is definitely a disease where an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of “cure”.
The one thing we do know is that Alzheimer’s, like diabetes and heart disease, has a strong inflammatory component–insulin resistance and high blood sugar. This would strongly suggest that an anti-inflammatory diet might be the best protection against Alzheimer’s (and against diabetes and heart disease).
So what exactly is an anti-inflammatory diet? Simply stated it is one that reduces the level of cellular inflammation in the body. Cellular inflammation is often below your conscious perception of pain, so you may not pay attention to it, like you would back pain or a tooth ache, but you can measure it. That’s why so many people are surprised when their doctor hands them a diabetes or a prediabetes diagnosis. They go for a routine checkup and their lab work comes back with the bad news that their blood sugar is way too high. But if they were really paying attention, they wouldn’t be surprised. As diabetes and cognitive impairment develops, it announces itself in all kinds of ways:
- Feeling thirsty,
- Frequent trips to the bathroom,
- Weakness and fatigue,
- Numbness and tingling in your feet (neuropathy),
- Blurred vision,
- Significant weight loss,
- Skin problems, and
- Frequent infections and wounds slow to heal.
So what pharmaceutical drugs can you use to reduce cellular inflammation? The answer is none, since it can only be done through diet, and specifically an anti-inflammatory diet. A characteristic of an anti-inflammatory diet is low glycemic-load or ketogenic diet, rich in organic fruits and vegetables and nutritious fats. In this way blood sugar enters your bloodstream at a much lower rate than with a grains, starches, and sugar diet. This delayed entry of carbohydrates reduces the production of insulin, which in turn, reduces the risk of high blood sugar and cellular inflammation.
While we’re talking about pharmaceutical drugs, it should be mentioned that medical authorities claim that side effects from prescription drugs are responsible for 15-30 percent of all dementia diagnoses. But don’t despair–a new field of expertise called polypharmacy has been created to “deal” with this problem. What is polypharmacy? the prescribing of multiple, unnecessary medications, for one or more conditions, at dosages and frequencies higher than therapeutically essential—leaving a patient at risk for dangerous drug interactions.
The Bredesen Protocol
Dr. Dale Bredesen, MD, neurologist, currently works as an Alzheimer’s specialist at UCLA.
Presently (2016) he is working with 100 patients who he says have shown similar dramatic improvements as the first 10 participants with his protocol. “We essentially ask the question, ‘why?’ Why do you have this? Instead of just naming it and saying this is Alzheimer’s, we are looking at what is actually causing the problem,” said Bredesen.
The “Bredesen Program” is actually simple: he prescribes a healthy lifestyle … exercise, sleep, foods without additives or preservatives, lots of fruits and vegetables, no farm-raised fish, and lots of vitamin and mineral supplements.
It’s important to note that Dr. Bredesen says he cannot treat people with advanced Alzheimer’s disease. His protocol is only for those with the disease in its early stages.
With so many people being diagnosed with AD (50% of those over age 85) there’s no time to wait for traditional science to come up with a “cure” or solid evidence to determine whether Dr. Bredesen’s approach works. Some of these studies will take 20 years. Do you have 20 years to waste if you are suffering from early stages of dementia? I think not. You may want to move forward and take chances and adopt a healthy lifestyle now.
If there is one downside to this program it is not often easy for the patient to follow, with the burden falling on the caregivers. The significant diet and lifestyle changes, and multiple pills required each day, are two of most common complaints. The good news, though, said Bredesen, are the side effects: “It is noteworthy that the major side effect of this therapeutic system is improved health and an optimal body mass index, a stark contrast to the side effects of many drugs.”
Bredesen’s approach is personalized to each patient, based on testing to determine what is affecting the plasticity signaling network of the brain.
Listen to a brief 3 minute audio by Dr. Vincent Fortanasce,
who treated both Pope John Paul II and the Dali Lama,
“..we have really good news to talk about here…”
diet and supplements for cognitive health.
A therapeutic program might include the following:
- Eliminating all simple carbohydrates,
- Eliminating gluten and processed foods, with increased vegetables, fruits, and non-farmed fish;
- Reducing stress with yoga and meditation;
- Taking melatonin at night if unable to sleep;
- Sleeping 7-8 hours per night;
- Taking vitamin B-12 methylcobalamin each day;
- Taking vitamin D3 each day;
- Taking fish oil each day;
- Taking CoQ10 each day;
- Optimizing oral hygiene by using an electric flosser and toothbrush;
- Initiating hormone replacement therapy if necessary;
- Fasting for a minimum of 12 hours between dinner and breakfast, and three hours between dinner and bedtime; and
- Exercising for a minimum of 30 minutes, 4-6 days per week.
Dr. Bredesen’s Case Study #1
Why Doctors are Now Calling Alzheimer’s Diabetes III
Alzheimer’s: Type 3 Diabetes
The idea that Alzheimer’s might be type 3 diabetes has been around since 2005, but the connection is becoming more and more convincing, as summarized in a cover story in New Scientist entitled “Food for Thought: What You Eat May Be Killing Your Brain.”
Type 3 diabetes is a title proposed for Alzheimer’s disease because it results from insulin resistance in the brain. Studies at Brown University found that insulin resistance can occur in the brain–similar to type 2 diabetes that happens in the body.
In comparing the brains of hundreds of Alzheimer’s patients with and without diabetes, those with Alzheimer’s show similar insulin resistance and processing abnormalities as seen in body tissues of type 2 patients.
How could insulin resistance in the brain lead to Alzheimer’s? One explanation is that insulin resistance may lead to a reduced ability to use glucose in fueling brain function, leading to poorer cognitive function. Additionally, the compromised role of insulin in the brain has been thought to accelerate the formation of the protein abnormalities (e.g., tangles and plaques) that are typically found in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s and has been proposed to cause the disease.
If you want to reduce your risk for diabetes and Alzheimer’s, control your blood sugar. Like the Bredesen Protocol (discussed above), it starts with diet and exercise.
Diabetes causes complications too numerous to mention, but when the cells in your brain become insulin-resistant, you start to lose memory and become disoriented. You even might lose aspects of your personality. In short, it appears, you develop Alzheimer’s.