Just about everyone has a guilty pleasure when it comes to food. Whether it be chips, candy bars, or pastries, everyone will find something bad for them that they wish they could eat without consequence. Unfortunately for us, there are consequences, grave consequences. Normally with this introduction one would assume that this is a paper about physical health. While it technically is you would most likely not link this problem with your physical health, but your mental health. The threats that trans fats and high fructose corn syrup present themselves in the forms of obesity, heart disease and diabetes. To be completely honest, I wish it was on these more physical problems because so far the only one of posing me a threat is heart disease due to genetic predisposition. Unfortunately, I have another genetic predisposition that this post is about, one that you would not expect to be affected by the foods you eat, Alzheimer's.
This was pretty shocking news to me as well, because in my youth only connection that I really thought there was between food and the brain was that it is fuel. If you are hungry you can't really think about anything else no matter how hard you try, and if you get too hungry thoughts become sluggish. Then came a bit more information as I got older: that there are chemicals that foods contain that can make your brain perform a certain way. For example ginseng will make you feel a little bit sharper, and that on the opposite ends of the spectrum the tryptophan in turkey can make you sluggish and sleepy. Now I understand that the brain is an extremely complicated system and that there is the potential for anything to happen. But, before I was presented with this theory about Alzheimer's I thought that as long as I protected my physical health from its effects, junk food could hold no sway over my life.
However, due to recent research there is a movement in the scientific community calling for this theory of food being linked to Alzheimer's to be considered more seriously. Some scientists have even gone as far as calling Alzheimer's “diabetes three”. There are two main components of this theory of a linkage between Alzheimer's and diabetes. The first part being how blood sugar affects the brain. If blood sugar held in the blood cells is too high this will weaken the blood vessels and weak blood vessels weaken the organ they are providing blood to. This is the main symptom in diabetes. The brain requires a lot of blood to work properly, so one can see how high levels of blood sugar can cause changes in cognitive function. In the body the regulator of blood sugar is insulin, which calls for muscle and fat cells to convert glucose to glycogen and fat, respectively. These are both useful forms of glucose. However, if your cells ignore these calls from insulin due to overuse, called insulin resistance, or if your pancreas does not produce enough, the glucose remains in the bloodstream. This causes the blood vessel issues, applies to every part of the body, and causes further problems everywhere it affects. Would it really be that much of a leap to connect it to brain problems as well?
The second part of the theory is the implication that this insulin resistance in the brain leads to the formation of the beta amyloid plaques. These masses of protein are thought to be the main trouble makers in Alzheimer's pathology. A Brown university neuropathologist named Suzanne de la Monte studied the effects of blocking the path of insulin to rat brains. These rats showed neuron degeneration, physical disorientation, and looking at their brains showed all the signs of Alzheimer's disease.
That is the scientific evidence, but what kind of other connections can we draw between Alzheimer's and diabetes, specifically Type 2 diabetes? One that should definitely be considered is the meteoric rise of both diseases in recent years. Studies linked below from both the CDC and Plattsburgh State University show that as time has progressed new cases of Alzheimer's and diabetes have been increasing. Both graphs show steady increase in each disease begins in the mid nineties. Now this certainly isn't when highly processed food came to the forefront of American culture, that had happened long before. But, we must consider that the effects of these diseases are slow, and that the degeneration would take the course of years.
I don't want you to get me wrong here, I'm not saying that avoiding chips is an Alzheimer's vaccine. The point I am trying to make is that there is a lot of evidence that insulin resistance or lack of insulin in the brain may be a factor in Alzheimer's neurodegeneration. That if, like me, you have a fear Alzheimer's taking away your last years, better safe than sorry.
Posted By Hunter Alexander (4)