Insulin Resistance Destroys Your Brain: Prevent Cognitive Decline w/ Nutrition | Max Lugavere
Max Lugavere is a best-selling author of books to help you maintain and preserve cognitive decline.
2:25 We believed that amyloid beta was the cause of Alzheimer’s and dementia.
9:10 Drugs can reduce amyloid, but do not improve cognitive function.
14:30 Exercise is close to being a magic bullet for prevention of Alzheimer’s.
15:30 Resistance training is the most effective form of exercise to slow cognitive decline.
22:50 IGF-1 is important for neuroplasticity.
28:05 Milk fat globulin membrane has a beneficial effect on cognitive function in children.
30:53 The presence of amyloid is a protective response to the brain’s immune system.
21:40 Chronic hyperglycemia is associated with an impaired ability for glucose to enter the brain.
34:40 Inflammation exacerbates cognitive issues.
35:40 Loss of sense of smell is one of the first indicators for cognitive dysfunction.
38:20 Constipation is an early pre-clinical sign of impending Parkinson’s disease.
39:10 Eyes are the only neurologic tissue that exists outside the brain.
40:15 Hearing loss is significant risk factor for developing dementia.
43:20 Insulin resistance: 80% of patients with Alzheimer’s are insulin resistant.
46:10 With every food, a risk benefit analysis should be performed.
47:50 Fiber and caffeine can help you be a better cholesterol recycler.
55:35 Vegan diets starve your brain of valuable nutrients.
56:55 Red meat provides a great number of nutrients that are important for brain health.
01:03:40 Valuable blood makers: Fasting triglycerides, fasting blood sugar, fasting insulin, homocysteine, high sensitivity CRP, and omega 3 index.
01:05:40 You have modifiable dementia risk factors.
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Strength training can help protect the brain from degeneration
Brawn can be good for the brain in at-risk old people
For the first time, an intervention – lifting weights – has been able to slow and even halt degeneration, over a long period, in brain areas particularly vulnerable to Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers have found that six months of strength training (lifting weights) can help protect brain areas especially vulnerable to Alzheimer’s disease up to one year later.
The team, led by researchers at the University of Sydney, conducted a clinical trial for older people at high risk of Alzheimer’s disease due to mild cognitive impairment.
Mild cognitive impairment involves a decline in memory and other thinking skills despite generally intact daily living skills, and is one of strongest risk factors for dementia. People with mild cognitive impairment are at a one-in-10 risk of developing dementia within a year.
Study participants were randomly allocated to do computerised brain training, strength training, combined computer and strength training, which they did for just six months followed by their usual activity for 12 months.
The long-term study found that strength training led to overall benefits to cognitive performance, benefits linked to protection from degeneration in specific subregions of the hippocampus. The hippocampus is a complex structure in the brain with a major role in learning and memory.
The hippocampus subregions targeted by the strength training were those especially vulnerable to Alzheimer’s disease.
In the control condition, where no strength training was undertaken hippocampal subregions shrunk by 3-4 percent over the 18-months, whilst those undergoing strength training saw only 1-2 percent reductions, and in some areas, none at all.
The findings have been published this month in the specialist journal Neuroimage: Clinical.
Strength training is a type of physical exercise that requires repetitive contraction of the major muscle groups against an opposing force, typically a free weight or using gym equipment. Participants in this study did supervised strength training for just 90 minutes in total each week, over two or three weekly sessions.
Dr Kathryn Broadhouse, now with the University of the Sunshine Coast, who led the analysis while at the University of Sydney, said the data showed that strength training could exert important biological effects.
“Our research shows that strength training can protect some hippocampal subregions from degeneration or shrinkage for up to 12-months after the training has stopped,” Dr Broadhouse said.
To arrive at their conclusions, the team conducted MRI brain scans of the participants three times over an 18-month period and used some of the latest advances in image analysis to quantify changes to subregions within the hippocampus, the brain’s memory hub.
“Hippocampal segmentation is difficult because the borders between structures are sometimes unclear and even anatomists will debate where to draw the line, so we restricted our analysis to those subregions where the data is consistent,” Dr Broadhouse said.
Professor Michael Valenzuela, leader of the Regenerative Neuroscience Group at the University of Sydney’s Brain and Mind Centre and the senior author of the study, believes the finding should change the dementia prevention message.
“This is the first time any intervention, medical or lifestyle, has been able to slow and even halt degeneration in brain areas particularly vulnerable to Alzheimer’s disease over such a long time,” said Professor Valenzuela, from the Sydney Medical School in the Faculty of Medicine and Health.
“Given this was also linked to protection from cognitive decline, the message is clear: resistance exercise needs to become a standard part of dementia risk-reduction strategies,” he said.
Professor Valenzuela is one of the leaders of the multi-million-dollar Australian Maintain your Brain online trial (www.maintainyourbrain.org) that will test if a tailored program of lifestyle modification, including resistance exercise, can prevent cognitive loss in a group of 6,000+ older adults.
About the study
One hundred participants were randomised to one of four training groups: (1) Combined high intensity progressive resistance and computerised cognitive training (PRT+CCT), (2) PRT+Sham CCT, (3) CCT+Sham PRT, (4) Sham physical+sham cognitive training (SHAM+SHAM). PRT but not CCT or PRT+CCT led to global long-term cognitive improvements above SHAM intervention at 18-month follow-up.
What is the difference between cognitive impairment and dementia?
These concepts tend to lie aolng a continuum of cognitive function.
Most cognitive domains decline as we get older but there is great variability between individuals and even within our own trajectories over time. This variability increases in later life and so can make the distinction between normal and impaired, or between impaired and dementia, challenging.
Neuropsychological testing can then be useful to find out how they compare to the average person of their age, sex and level of education. If multiple tests for a given cognitive domain point to a result less than the 10th percentile, then they may have an impairment in that domain.
For a diagnosis of dementia, four main conditions need to be satisfied:
- impairment on multiple cognitive domains
- a definite decline in cognitive function
- exclusion of any possible medical causes for this decline, and
- the person is no longer able to carry out day-to-day tasks.
In practice, the last criterion – being able to do one’s daily activities independently – is pivotal to distinguishing between cognitive impairment and dementia.
Avoiding Alzheimer’s Disease Could Be Easier Than You Think
Science shines bright light on root cause of memory problems.
- Insulin resistance of the body is type 2 diabetes; insulin resistance of the brain is type 3 diabetes.
- Researchers have found that Alzheimer’s Disease is preceded by decades of gradually worsening glucose hypometabolism.
- Insulin resistance is a major risk factor for Alzheimer’s Disease that people can do something about.
Do you have insulin resistance?
If you don’t know, you’re not alone. This is perhaps the single most important question any of us can ask about our physical and mental health—yet most patients, and even many doctors, don’t know how to answer it.
Here in the U.S., insulin resistance has reached epidemic proportions: More than half of us are now insulin resistant. Insulin resistance is a hormonal condition that sets the stage throughout the body for inflammation and overgrowth, disrupts normal cholesterol and fat metabolism, and gradually destroys our ability to process carbohydrates.
Insulin resistance puts us at high risk for many undesirable diseases, including obesity, heart disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes.
Scarier still, researchers now understand that insulin resistance is the driving force behind most cases of garden-variety Alzheimer’s Disease.
What is insulin resistance?
Insulin is a powerful metabolic hormone that orchestrates how cells access and process vital nutrients, including sugar (glucose).
In the body, one of insulin’s responsibilities is to unlock muscle and fat cells so they can absorb glucose from the bloodstream. When you eat something sweet or starchy that causes your blood sugar to spike, the pancreas releases insulin to usher the excess glucose out of the bloodstream and into cells. If blood sugar and insulin spike too high too often, cells will try to protect themselves from overexposure to insulin’s powerful effects by toning down their response to insulin—they become “insulin resistant.”
In an effort to overcome this resistance, the pancreas releases even more insulin into the blood to try to keep glucose moving into cells. The more insulin levels rise, the more insulin-resistant cells become. Over time, this vicious cycle can lead to persistently elevated blood glucose levels, or type 2 diabetes.
Insulin resistance and the brain
In the brain, it’s a different story. The brain is an energy hog that demands a constant supply of glucose. Glucose can freely leave the bloodstream, waltz across the blood-brain barrier, and even enter most brain cells—no insulin required. In fact, the level of glucose in the cerebrospinal fluid surrounding your brain is always about 60% as high as the level of glucose in your bloodstream—even if you have insulin resistance—so, the higher your blood sugar, the higher your brain sugar.
Not so with insulin—the higher your blood insulin levels, the more difficult it can become for insulin to penetrate the brain. This is because the receptors responsible for escorting insulin across the blood-brain barrier can become resistant to insulin, restricting the amount of insulin allowed into the brain. While most brain cells don’t require insulin in order to absorb glucose, they do require insulin in order to process glucose. Cells must have access to adequate insulin or they can’t transform glucose into the vital cellular components and energy they need to thrive.
Despite swimming in a sea of glucose, brain cells in people with insulin resistance literally begin starving to death.
Insulin resistance and memory
Which brain cells go first? The hippocampus is the brain’s memory center. Hippocampal cells require so much energy to do their important work that they often need extra boosts of glucose. While insulin is not required to let a normal amount of glucose into the hippocampus, these special glucose surges do require insulin, making the hippocampus particularly sensitive to insulin deficits. This explains why declining memory is one of the earliest signs of Alzheimer’s, despite the fact that Alzheimer’s Disease eventually destroys the whole brain.
Without adequate insulin, the vulnerable hippocampus struggles to record new memories, and over time begins to shrivel up and die. By the time a person notices symptoms of “Mild Cognitive Impairment” (pre-Alzheimer’s), the hippocampus has already shrunk by more than 10%.
Alzheimer’s Disease is type 3 diabetes
The major hallmarks of Alzheimer’s Disease—neurofibrillary tangles, amyloid plaques, and brain cell atrophy—can all be explained by insulin resistance. A staggering 80% of people with Alzheimer’s Disease have insulin resistance or full-blown type 2 diabetes. The connection between insulin resistance and Alzheimer’s Disease is now so firmly established that scientists have started referring to Alzheimer’s Disease as “Type 3 Diabetes.”
This does not mean that diabetes causes Alzheimer’s Disease—dementia can strike even if you don’t have diabetes. It’s more accurate to think of it this way: Insulin resistance of the body is type 2 diabetes; insulin resistance of the brain is type 3 diabetes. They are two separate diseases caused by the same underlying problem: insulin resistance.
Are you already on the road to Alzheimer’s Disease?
You may be surprised to learn that Alzheimer’s Disease begins long before any symptoms appear.
The brain sugar processing problem caused by insulin resistance is called “glucose hypometabolism.” This simply means that brain cells don’t have enough insulin to burn glucose at full capacity. The more insulin resistant you become, the more sluggish your brain glucose metabolism becomes. Glucose hypometabolism is an early marker of Alzheimer’s disease risk that can be visualized with special brain imaging studies called PET scans. Using this technology to study people of different ages, researchers have discovered that Alzheimer’s Disease is preceded by decades of gradually worsening glucose hypometabolism.
Brain glucose metabolism can be reduced by as much as 25% long before any memory problems become obvious. As a psychiatrist who specializes in the treatment of college students, I find it positively chilling that scientists have found evidence of glucose hypometabolism in the brains of women as young as 24 years old.
Real hope for your future
We used to feel helpless in the face of Alzheimer’s Disease because we were told that all of the major risk factors for this devastating condition were beyond our control: age, genetics, and family history. We were sitting ducks, living in fear of the worst—until now.
- The bad news is that insulin resistance has become so common that chances are you already have it to some degree.
- The good news is that insulin resistance is a major risk factor for Alzheimer’s Disease that you can do something about.
- Eating too many of the wrong carbohydrates too often is what causes blood sugar and insulin levels to rise, placing us at high risk for insulin resistance and Alzheimer’s Disease.
- Our bodies have evolved to handle whole food sources of carbohydrates like apples and sweet potatoes, but they simply aren’t equipped to cope with modern refined carbohydrates like flour and sugar.
Simply put, refined carbohydrates cause brain damage.
You can’t do anything about your genes or how old you are—but you can certainly change how you eat. It’s not about eating less fat, less meat, more fiber, or more fruits and vegetables. Changing the amount and type of carbohydrate you eat is where the money’s at.
3 steps you can take right now to minimize your risk for Alzheimer’s Disease
1. Find out how insulin resistant you are.
Your health care provider can estimate where you are on the insulin resistance spectrum using simple blood tests such as glucose, insulin, triglyceride, and HDL cholesterol levels, in combination with other information such as waist measurement and blood pressure.
2. Avoid refined carbohydrates like the plague, starting right now.
Even if you don’t have insulin resistance yet, you remain at high risk for developing it until you kick refined carbohydrates such as bagels, juice boxes, and granola bars to the curb.
3. If you have insulin resistance, watch your carbohydrate intake.
Unfortunately, people with insulin resistance need to be careful with all carbs, not just the refined ones. Replace most of the carbs on your plate with delicious healthy fats and proteins to protect your insulin signaling system. The infographic below provides key strategies you’ll need to normalize blood sugar and insulin levels.
You can wield tremendous power over insulin resistance—and your intellectual future—simply by changing the way you eat. Laboratory tests for insulin resistance respond surprisingly quickly to dietary changes—many people see dramatic improvements in their blood sugar, insulin, and triglyceride levels within just a few weeks.
If you already have some memory problems and think it’s too late to do anything about it, think again! This 2012 study showed that a low-carbohydrate high-fat diet improved memory in people with “Mild Cognitive Impairment” (Pre-Alzheimer’s Disease) in only six weeks.
Yes, it is difficult to remove refined carbohydrates from the diet—they are addictive, inexpensive, convenient, and delicious—but you can do it. It is primarily your diet, not your DNA, that controls your destiny. You don’t have to be a sitting duck waiting around to see if Alzheimer’s Disease happens to you. Armed with this information, you can be a proactive, swimming duck sporting a big, beautiful hippocampus who gets to keep every single one of your marbles for the rest of your life.
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