For the past 20 years, scientists have wondered whether Alzheimer’s Disease might be a neuro-endocrine disorder, like diabetes.
In 2005, Dr. Suzanne de la Monte had a breakthrough.
During her research, she made two discoveries:
- the brain makes its own insulin, and
- Alzheimer’s disease depletes insulin
Based on these discoveries, Dr. de la Monte went beyond theorizing that there is a connection between Diabetes and Alzheimer’s.
She actually identified the Alzheimer’s Disease process as Type 3 Diabetes.
What Is Type 3 Diabetes?
To understand Type 3 diabetes, you have to understand Types 1 and 2. So, bear with me for a minute while I give you a refresher course on Diabetes.
Type 1 Diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease. An autoimmune disease results when the body’s system for fighting infection (the immune system) turns against a part of the body. In diabetes, the immune system attacks and destroys the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. The pancreas then produces little or no insulin. A person who has type 1 diabetes must take insulin daily to live.
Type 2 Diabetes
.Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes. About 90 to 95 percent of people with diabetes have type 2. This form of diabetes is most often associated with older age, obesity, family history of diabetes, previous history of gestational diabetes, physical inactivity, and certain ethnicities. About 80 percent of people with type 2 diabetes are overweight.
Type 3 Diabetes
.Insulin has numerous functions within your body.
The most well known function is that it helps convert food into energy.
What you may not know is that insulin is also active in your brain.
It helps us to learn and to make new memories.
Here’s how it works:
In the spaces across which brain cells communicate (called Synapses) and where memories are conceived, neurons reserve special parking spots just for insulin.
When the hormone pulls in, a connection is made that enables new memories to form.
Since new memory formation is one of the first things to go awry in people with early stages of Alzheimer’s Disease, this insulin-initiated process has been a popular research topic for neuro-scientists for the past 20 years.
In August, a team of scientists at Northwestern University were the first to show why the brain’s “memory function” fails in the face of an insulin shortage.
Earlier research had already identified the culprit: toxic proteins called amyloid beta-derived diffusible ligands (ADDL), which are known to pile up in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s.
Scientists also knew that Alzheimer’s patients’ brains have lower levels of insulin and are insulin resistant.
But what the Northwestern team discovered is the molecular mechanism behind that resistance: when ADDLs bind to neurons at synapses, they obliterate the receptors that are normally reserved for insulin.
Without those parking spaces on the brain cells’ surface, insulin has no place to connect, and memory fails.
So Where Do The ADDLs Come From?
The ADDLs are a side effect of inflammation in the brain.
So Where Does The Brain Inflammation Come From?
The brain inflammation is a result of high insulin levels.
So Where Do The High Insulin Levels Come From?
High Insulin levels are produced when we eat a diet high in carbohydrates.
More specifically, a diet that consists of meal after meal of high glycemic load foods results in:
- high blood sugar,
- high insulin levels,
- Metabolic Syndrome,
- Type 2 Diabetes, and now, thanks to the wonders of science,
- Type 3 Diabetes / Alzheimer’s Disease.
And if you don’t believe that high insulin levels are the culprit behind those nasty little ADDLs
University of Washington researcher Dr. Suzanne Craft and her research team signed up 16 very brave volunteers to test this hypothesis.
These men and women, ranging in age from 55 to 81, let research doctors give them two-hour infusions of both insulin and sugar. This kept their blood sugar at normal levels while creating the same kind of high insulin levels seen in people with insulin resistance.
Insulin resistance is a common symptom of people who eat the typical American diet. Though to be fair, it is not just Americans who eat this way. Like many other cultural contributions, the Golden Arches et al have spread across the globe. Even the French are buying into the American diet.
Back to the study.
The volunteers then let the researchers give them a spinal tap so they could analyze their spinal fluid.
Just this brief rise in insulin levels had what Craft calls “striking” effects:
- It set off inflammation in the brain.
- The spinal fluid had increased levels of a compound called F2-isoprostane. Alzheimer’s patients have unusually high brain levels of F2-isoprostane.
- Brain levels of beta-amyloid increased.
Except for the spinal tap, many Americans already are undergoing the same experiment as the study volunteers did. And they are doing it for a lot longer than two hours.
According to Samuel Gandy, MD, PhD. Gandy, chairman of the Alzheimer’s Association’s medical and scientific advisory committee, director of the Farber neuroscience institute at Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia and all around good guy:
“I think this reinforces the idea that it’s wise to maintain your brain. Controlling blood sugar and body weight…all those things we know are good for your heart health are also really good at preventing Alzheimer’s disease. So there are more and more reasons not to be slouchy about getting these things under control.”
Craft and colleagues reported their findings in the October issue of Archives of Neurology.
My Two Cents
For all of you people that don’t think that eating a diet based on processed foods is a big deal, listen up: