I have written before about the evils of a diet high in sugar, and right now, I guess with my Grandmother’s birthday last week bringing her so often to mind, I’m on a dementia roll. So, following on the heels of my recent post about Alzheimer’s, I thought I’d write about recent research[i] out of England which has definitively connected high blood sugar levels with Alzheimer’s.
It was already known that patients with diabetes have a greater chance of developing Alzheimer’s, and one would suspect that inflammation – which is involved in both disease processes – would play a big part. It turns out that this is indeed the case.
Glucose and its break-down products can damage proteins in cells through a process called glycation. Scientists have now discovered the exact molecule (MIF = macrophage migration inhibitory factor) which is damaged by glycation. This molecule is a part of the normal immune response and insulin regulation. Damage to this molecule by excessive glycation (from high glucose), which makes it not work optimally, can lead to the development of the brain plaques that are the hallmark of Alzheimer’s.
Dr. Omar Kassaar, one of the researchers involved in this study, said: “Excess sugar is well known to be bad for us when it comes to diabetes and obesity, but this potential link with Alzheimer’s disease is yet another reason that we should be controlling our sugar intake in our diets.”[ii]
Sugar is just bad. It’s bad for our microbiomes: and an unhealthy microbiome is linked to a myriad of diseases, as you know from reading this blog. Sugar is linked to obesity, metabolic syndrome, cancer, hypertension, depression, headaches and fatigue. According to a 2012 article[iii] in Forbes, Americans now consume 765 grams of sugar every 5 days. Compare that to the early 1800s, when we consumed 45 grams. Around 1900, we were eating about 20 pounds of sugar per year – now we’re eating over 130 pounds. We average about 3 pounds of sugar per week!
So call me crazy but…limiting your intake of refined sugar is probably a really good idea.
By the way, just before I went to post this, I spotted an article[iv] on Medpage Today, describing a new study also out of England, which demonstrates that patients with autoimmune disease are markedly (20%) more likely to develop dementia. “”There are suggestions that Alzheimer’s disease may have an autoimmune component, and that autoimmune and inflammatory mechanisms may play a role in the development of dementia,” Wotton and Goldacre wrote.”
Time to boost those regulatory cytokines.
[i] Omar Kassaar et al, Macrophage Migration Inhibitory Factor is subjected to glucose modification and oxidation in Alzheimer’s Disease, Scientific Reports (2017).