While an occasional sweet treat is a pleasurable experience, daily overindulgence of added sugar is a major contributor to poor dental heath, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. Moreover, many health professionals view sugars as toxic to cognitive health and function. Scientists now refer to Alzheimer’s disease as “diabetes of the brain” or type 3 diabetes. Glucose, a form of sugar, is the primary fuel source for our energy-demanding brains. This may lead one to wonder how a simple carbohydrate necessary for brain function can wreak havoc on mental, physical and psychological wellbeing. However, supplying the brain with energy is a delicate balancing act that doesn’t require the consumption of added sugars.
Proper glucose levels and efficient use of this energy source are closely linked to valuable brain functions such as thinking, memory and learning. Low glucose levels are linked to decreased production of neurochemicals, as well as poor cognitive function. High glucose levels are linked to memory problems and cognitive deficiencies. Science shows that our bodies don’t need added sugar for proper function, as sophisticated bodily functions break down complex carbohydrates into the simple sugars essential for cell and organ functioning. A whole food largely plant-based diet replete with vitamins, minerals, omega-3’s, fiber, good quality proteins, and healthy fats, provides sufficient brain fuel and supports overall health.
We know that type 2 diabetes accelerates brain aging, and that high glucose levels can negatively affect the brain’s functional connectivity, accelerating the progression of functional decline. Long term type 1 and type 2 diabetes can cause brain atrophy, and can lead to small vessel disease, resulting in cognitive difficulties and hastening the development of vascular dementia. An observational study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that higher blood glucose levels are associated with a greater risk of dementia, even among those not diagnosed with diabetes. The seven-year study, which adjusted data for cardiovascular factors already linked to dementia, such as high blood pressure and smoking, found that over the course of the study, approximately 25 percent of participants developed Alzheimer’s disease or vascular dementia.
The results showed a direct correlation between higher blood sugar levels and increased dementia risk, providing more evidence that the brain is a target for damage by high blood sugar. The typical American diet, high in refined carbohydrates, added sugars and industrial food toxins, is linked to inflammation, a major driver of chronic disease. Neuroinflammation is believed to be a cause of depression and other mental health disorders. Per board certified women’s holistic health psychiatrist, Kelly Brogan, MD., “Sugar has direct inflammatory effects on the body that may be related to its influence on gut microflora, its associated insulin spike or the glycation effects of circulating sugar on proteins. The more days of your life you engage in a pattern of sugar and refined carb consumption, the more your brain suffers, potentially putting you at risk for Alzheimer’s dementia down the line.”
Brain neurons are very sensitive cells and those with diabetes and high blood sugar are at risk of neuronal damage. Data shows that type 2 diabetes causes brain insulin resistance, oxidative stress and cognitive impairment. Persuasive evidence supports the hypothesis that Alzheimer’s represents a form of diabetes that selectively afflicts the brain. Although type 2 diabetes itself may not cause Alzheimer’s, it may serve as a cofactor in its pathogenesis or progression. Additionally, the strong link between diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease is seen to support the claim that sugar toxicity may be destroying mental health. While correlated with mild cognitive impairment in seniors, high sugar consumption has negative effects on children’s cognitive function as well.
While there are no simple answers, common sense actions that promote health throughout life may help to avoid or delay cognitive decline. There’s no single medication or action that has been found to preserve brain health. Currently, a mixed approach of healthy lifestyle choices is recommended to help maintain brain resiliency and function. Factors that play a role in supporting cognitive and overall health include controlling blood sugar and hypertension, maintaining a healthy diet and weight, engaging in regular physical and cognitively stimulating activities, and avoiding smoking and social isolation. Making a broad overall effort to reduce sugar and refined carbohydrate consumption, as well as a commitment to a healthier lifestyle is good advice for supporting cardiac, brain and overall health. Don’t delay, start today.
Professional Supplement Center carries many high quality products to support overall heath and healthy glucose levels:
Vanadium Complex with Cinnulin PF® by Progressive™ Laboratories: This scientifically designed complex provides nutritional support for glucose metabolism, normal blood sugar levels, and pancreatic health, as well as insulin production and sensitivity. Natural ingredients help to manage sugar and carbohydrate cravings.
Sweet Defense™ by Enzymatic Therapy®: This vitamin, mineral, botanical and glandular product provides nutrients for blood glucose, carbohydrate and energy metabolism. Sweet Defense™ may help with weight management by helping to reduce sugar cravings. Gluten, wheat, soy, dairy, yeast, preservative and artificial ingredient free.
Chromium Picolinate 500 mcg by Pure Encapsulations®: This hypoallergenic supplement provides a highly usable form of chromium essential for proper glucose and lipid metabolism. Gluten and soy free, Non-GMO vegetarian formulation.
Glyco Stress by Biospec Nutritionals: This unique formula provides vitamins, minerals, and botanicals to nutritionally support the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, as well as promote healthy glucose levels.
Glucose Support Formula by Pure Encapsulations®: This hypoallergenic complex contains highly recognized ingredients that provide specific support for optimal pancreatic function, as well as healthy glucose and fat metabolism. Ingredients include traditional botanicals, adaptogens, chromium and maitake medicinal mushroom. Gluten and soy free, Non-GMO vegetarian formulation.
Sugar and the Brain. http://neuro.hms.harvard.edu/harvard-mahoney-neuroscience-institute/brain-newsletter/and-brain-series/sugar-and-brain
High Blood Sugar Linked to Dementia. https://newoldage.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/08/09/high-blood-sugar-linked-to-dementia/
Dietary Sugar and Mental Illness: A Surprising Link. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-depression-cure/200907/dietary-sugar-and-mental-illness-surprising-link
Alzheimer’s Disease is Type 3 Diabetes-Evidence Reviewed. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2769828/