Sugar and Alzheimer's Disease

Sugar and Alzheimer's Disease

Medical research studies since 2012 have suggested a relationship between sugar consumption and Alzheimer's disease. As one form of dementia, Alzheimer's affects over five million Americans. High blood sugar is associated with future development of dementia (even without a diabetes diagnosis) and should be closely monitored. Diabetes Type 2 damages blood vessels in the brain increasing Alzheimer's risk. One in three seniors according to the Alzheimer's Association will develop dementia (with Alzheimer's the most likely form). High sugar intake can predispose to future dementia-and youth obesity predisposes to early onset Type 2 diabetes.

Changes in Brain Chemistry in Dementia

The accumulation of beta-amyloid proteins (plaques) in the brain in Alzheimer's disease interferes with neural transmissions between cells. In vascular dementia, small strokes called "transient ischemic attacks" cause brain cells to die-and arterial narrowing limits oxygen transmission to the brain. In Lewy's body dementia (third most common after Alzheimer's and vascular), the alpha-synuclein protein is found in high circulation in the brain. Lewy's body dementia has not been linked to abnormally high blood sugar as have the other two types of dementia. However, all are progressive.

How Diabetes Contributes to Dementia

Cardiovascular disease is one of the complications of diabetes, and hardening of the arteries in the brain can result. In obese individuals with diabetes, high glucose combined with high lipids (fats) in the bloodstream over time can promote the development of Alzheimer's disease. This is the reason that the dementia risk is increased in diabetic seniors.

The problem with diabetes is that it is a systemic condition with many potential complications. While most-associated with dysfunction of the pancreas, the effect on the heart, brain, and nervous system is destructive. Even taking medications and insulin may not eliminate the negative impact on vascular function. Poorly controlled diabetes raises the risks for developing its complications. Therefore, it is imperative for people with diabetes to follow prescribed diets and/or take medications to get their blood glucose level under control.

Articles Linking High Glucose to Alzheimer's Disease

The New England Journal of Medicine in 2013 published an article by Crane et al entitled, "Glucose Levels and Risk of Dementia". Meanwhile, Moreira in 2013 published his article, "High-Sugar Diets, Type 2 Diabetes and Alzheimer's Disease" (Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care 16:440-5). In 2013, Duke Medical Health News published one that linked abnormally high blood sugar levels with dementia-as did the Harvard Health Letter in 2014.

In 2008, an article in Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology was published, entitled, "Alzheimer's Disease Is Type 3 Diabetes-Evidence Reviewed" (by Suzanne de la Monte and Jack Wands). The co-authors suggest that Alzheimer's disease may be caused by insulin-resistance in the brain.

Sugar, Obesity, and Diabetes

The high sugar intake by children in the United States has led to obesity in young adulthood. In turn, obesity has led to diagnoses of diabetes (Type 2) at much younger ages. Meanwhile, diabetes (Type 1) is a hereditary disorder that is also increasing in the population. In both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, blood sugar can become abnormally high. It can be even more difficult to control in obese diabetics. Medically-supervised weight loss is one of the treatments options for diabetes-as it can make controlling blood glucose levels easier and thereby lower the risk of complications.

Early diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease (as well as other forms of dementia) has increased due to improved testing methods. However, the inability to cure Alzheimer's disease means that prevention is essential. Lowering sugar intake in young adulthood is one way to lower the risk of getting Alzheimer's disease in middle age.