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post : Are Carbs Causing Dementia?

Are Carbs Causing Dementia?

By Lauren Peizer, ND October 6, 2017 Leave a comment Go to comments

CarbohydratesDementia is on the rise. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) there are currently around 47 million people with dementia and that number is expected to get up to nearly three times that many within 30-35 years.

What is dementia? Although a non-specific disease, worsening memory, impaired social function and change in thinking that is severe enough to affect activities of daily living are general symptoms associated with dementia.   What causes dementia? This is a large topic of discussion and research. Many of the risk factors contributing dementia are related to diet and life-style. One of these risk factors is sugar/carbs in your diet and blood sugar.

Blood sugar can shrink your brain. More and more studies are showing that an elevated blood sugar can increase your risk of dementia. It is important to note that “elevated” blood sugars are not solely responsible for this risk but with blood sugars in the moderate to high “normal” blood range there can be changes to the physical structure of the brain that affect memory and cognition. The hippocampus is a part of the brain that is responsible for memory, specifically the formation of new memories (and therefore the ability to learn new things). The hippocampus is shown to atrophy (degenerate) in people with higher blood sugars. Hemoglobin A1c (the measure the average blood sugar over the last three months) is also related to brain size/shrinking. With an ideal hemoglobin A1c (4.6-5.2%) the brain shrinks 0.025% annually, in comparison a hemoglobin A1c of 5.9-6.5% (Pre-diabetic) will more than double that rate.

Some studies have shown that a diet high in carbs can up to quadruple the risk of developing memory impairment. Why does this happen? Like in Type 2 Diabetes, it may be that when the brain is exposed to increased sugar and insulin it becomes less responsive (insulin resistance) and shuts down signaling pathways which in turn impairs memory, the brain’s ability to think, and eventually can cause damage to the brain.

Are all carbs bad? No, your brain needs glucose and it is the primary user of glucose in the body. Including some complex carbohydrates in your diet can be beneficial for brain health. Simple sugars/carbohydrates raise blood sugar faster and higher and are therefore higher risk foods.

Aside from a balanced diet, what else can we do to keep blood sugars in ideal ranges? One of the biggest contributors is exercise. When we exercise sugars are taken out of the blood to be used by muscle and therefore lowering overall blood sugar. Additionally, the more skeletal muscle you have the lower your insulin resistance and higher muscle mass burns more sugar (even at rest).

Dementia is a growing concern for many people. Dementia should not be considered a natural part of aging and one way of reducing risk of dementia is to keep blood sugars low.

Posted in: Cognition
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