Aging shouldn’t include dementia.
We assume that the older a person gets, the easier it is to get lost when finding his way to a new destination. This is not just “aging.” This is neurodegeneration. Too often, signs of memory lapse and confusion are passed off as the normal aging process. It’s as if, more and more, we expect the body to break down as it ages. In fact, the truth is the brain can remain strong and active through old age and up until death.
The Alzheimer’s Association tells us, according to 2011 figures, that after the age of 85, 43% of the U.S. population will have Alzheimer’s disease.1 This number is astounding, especially if you consider the fact that in most traditional cultures dementia is unheard of. The Kitavans in Papua New Guinea, the elderly remain mentally sharp until death, even in those as old as 100.2 This is just one example.
Why are almost half of Americans over the age of 85 losing normal mental function?
It’s important to remember that dementia and alzheimer’s disease don’t have to be a normal part of the aging process. With neurodegenerative conditions steadily on the rise, researchers are scrambling to figure out exactly what causes brain tissue to break down and essentially shrink. So far, a few clues have been gathered:
- Alzheimer’s involves things called beta-amyloid plaque and tau protein tangles.
- There is evidence that diet plays a role in the development of Alzheimer’s.
- Common long-term chronic infections that have reached the central nervous system have been found to be associated with the development of Alzheimer’s.3
- Alzheimer’s involves inflammation in the brain.4
- Dementia and High Blood Sugar: There is plenty of evidence that those with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia are unable to properly use glucose, or sugar, for energy. In other words, brain cells starve, oxidize, become toxic, and then die.
A little background before we dive into diet.
Before we go any further into the importance of diet, it is a good idea to have some understanding of what beta-amyloid plaques and tau protein tangles are since they are so prevalent in those who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease.
Beta-amyloid plaque, also called senile plaque, should not accumulate excessively in the brain. When it does, there is a strong association to activated microglia and astrocytes – your brain’s housekeeper cells. Beta-amyloid plaque is deposited around and outside of cells in the gray matter of the brain and prompts the release of inflammatory messengers.
Inflammation is bad news for anyone who wants to keep brain tissue.
When the brain’s housekeepers are working to clean up debris like dead neurons and plaque, the immune response has been turned on, and the resulting inflammation can be a dangerous thing because it means more tissue will be destroyed.
Neurons can become diseased when tau proteins gather together and form little clusters, which indeed look like a tangle.
- Tau proteins are normally found evenly disbursed through a healthy neuron.
- When these proteins come together, they form a tangle.
- Tau protein tangles indicate a diseased neuron, and the neuron eventually falls apart from within and dies.
High Blood Sugar and Alzheimer’s
It turns out that high blood sugar has a pretty definitive relationship to Alzheimer’s dementia. At this point, numerous studies have shown that those with elevated blood sugar are more predisposed to develop Alzheimer’s or dementia.5,6
Remember how the elderly on the island of Kitava have no trace of Alzheimer’s or dementia? There is also no sign of modern industrial foods like vegetable oil, wheat, refined sugars, or pasteurized dairy.
If you eat a modern diet, chances are that you also consume large quantities of pro-inflammatory oils and large amounts carbohydrates, which, for most Americans, are often a staple in every meal. The carbohydrates that many Americans eat are often highly refined, processed, and even genetically altered to the point where these carbs raise blood sugar quicker than a spoonful of sugar.
Protect the Brain with Diet!
It’s possible to eat in a way that actually protects your brain. Avoiding heavily processed foods and high quantities of sugar helps to unwind the cascade of events related to high blood sugar and chronic degenerative disease. Fermented goods, loaded with probiotics, are also extremely helpful.
- By simply adding fermented foods and beverages to your diet, you inoculate the body with good bacteria that promote health.
- Healthy microflora have been shown to reduce inflammation in the gut, which has a systemic effect.
- Healthy microflora also do their own kind of housecleaning by pulling out toxins from the body.
The Body Ecology Core Program was designed after 30 years of research to set you up with the right tools to help change old dietary habits and rebuild the core digestive health, the basis of longevity.
What to Remember Most About This Article:
The Alzheimer’s Association tells us that after the age of 85, 43% of Americans will have Alzheimer’s disease. The good news is that dementia does not have to be a normal part of the aging process. In other cultures that do not eat the standard American diet, dementia is virtually unheard of, regardless of age.
Diet has been shown to play a role in the development of Alzheimer’s. Numerous studies have indicated that people with high blood sugar are more likely to suffer from Alzheimer’s and dementia. This high blood sugar is likely caused by modern industrial foods like wheat, refined sugars, vegetable oil, and pasteurized dairy products.
You can protect your brain health by choosing the right foods and adding fermented foods and beverages to your diet. Healthy bacteria will reduce inflammation and promote brain health at the same time.
1. Alzheimer’s Association. “2011 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures.” Alzheimer’s & Dementia. 2011; 7 (2).
3. Combs C, et al. J Neurosci. 2000; 20(2): 558-67
4. Akiyama, H. et al. Inflammation and Alzheimer’s disease. Neurobiol Aging. 2000 May – June; 21(3): 383 – 421.
5. WL Xu, et al. Uncontrolled diabetes increases the risk of Alzheimer’s disease: a population-based cohort study. Diabetologia. 2009 Jun;52(6):1031-9. Epub 2009 Mar 12.
6. Yutaka Kiyohara, et al. Glucose tolerance status and risk of dementia in the community: The Hisayama study. Neurology. 2011 Sept 20; 7(12 ): 1126 – 1134.