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NEW RESEARCH: This Diet Alteration May Reduce Your Risk of Alzheimer's Disease
By Jen Palmer, ND, NEEDS Education Director

Researchers are becoming desperate to learn more about what causes Alzheimer's disease (AD), as rates continue to escalate and the burden to the American healthcare system skyrockets. Over 5.5 million Americans are living with AD and a new case develops every 66 seconds! It's critical to determine the causes of AD in order to effectively prevent it. The list of possible causes that are currently being explored include: brain inflammation, hormonal factors, oxidative stress, environmental toxins, and even infection. Regardless of the specific cause, the resulting damage to the brain is demonstrated by two hallmark signs of AD—the presence of neurofibrillary tangles and amyloid plaque accumulation.

"Neurofibrillary tangles" are insoluble twisted fibers found inside the brain's cells, which are created from a protein called "tau". In a healthy state, the tau protein is part of a microtubule that helps transport nutrients throughout the nerves. But in AD, the twisted fibers prevent this process from working properly.

"Beta amyloid" is a sticky protein fragment that would naturally be eliminated in a healthy brain. In AD, beta amyloid can amass and cause "plaque" in the brain. Amyloid plaque is thought to contribute to inflammation in the brain and block proper brain cell communication.

Both neurofibrillary tangles and beta amyloid plaque are implicated in damaging nerve cells and the loss of connections between nerve cells. This damage causes symptoms in the brain that are related to Alzheimer's and dementia.

A recent study was conducted to better understand a possible cause of one of the factors—amyloid plaque accumulation. The goal was to assess if high glycemic diets, meaning a diet that consistently favors simple carbohydrates and sugars, increases plaque accumulation. The study began four years prior and will continue tracking the participants' diets as they age. At the beginning of the study, all participants were considered cognitively healthy.

They found that adults who consumed a higher amount of sugar and carbohydrates in their diets had elevated levels of cerebral amyloid present. The participants with the highest sugar intake also had substandard cognitive performance during testing. At the four year mark, there appears to be an association between a high glycemic diet and risk of developing AD.

Undoubtedly, there are additional factors beyond diet that contribute to AD and they will all need to be addressed to effectively prevent it. Ultimately, this research may help solve an important piece of the puzzle based on the connection we have already established between inflammation and AD. A high sugar and simple carbohydrate diet can cause a spike in insulin from the pancreas, resulting in an increased production of free radicals and pro-inflammatory cytokines. Both contribute to increased inflammation throughout the body, but a diet consisting of less sugar and more protein can certainly help modify blood sugar and reduce this source of inflammation.

Yao J, Brinton RD. Adv Pharmacol. 2012; 64:327-71. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-12-394816- 8.00010-6 Review.
Am J Clin Nutr. 2017 Dec; 106(6):1463-1470. Doi: 10.3945/ajcn.117.162263.Epub 2017 Oct 25.

These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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