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Friday, December 30, 2005

Alzheimer's May Be Another Form of Diabetes

A study from Brown University Medical School shows that Alzheimer’s disease may be another form of diabetes, and all the recommendations for avoiding diabetes may also protect your memory (Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, November 2005.)

Like the pancreas, the brain produces insulin. Professor Suzanne M. de la Monte showed that brain levels of insulin and insulin receptors fall during the early stages of Alzheimer's and continue to drop progressively as the disease progresses. Other features of Alzheimer's, such as cell death and tangles in the brain, could be caused by abnormalities in insulin functions. Furthermore, lack of insulin lowers brain levels of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is seen regularly in Alzheimer's disease.

This would explain why every factor known to increase risk for heart attacks also increases risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Anything that increases your chances of developing a stroke or a heart attack also increases your chances of developing Alzheimer's disease. So the risk factors for Alzheimer's disease include smoking, being overweight, not exercising, eating a high-fat diet, taking in too many calories, or having high blood pressure or high blood cholesterol levels. Dietary risk factors include not eating enough vegetables; lack of omega-3 fatty acids; and eating too much meat.

Even though these studies on insulin and Alzheimer's are preliminary, it is a good idea to reduce susceptibility to developing diabetes by markedly reducing your intake of sugar and flour; increasing your intake of fruits, vegetable, whole grains, beans, and nuts; avoiding weight gain and exercising regularly.

by Gabe Mirkin, M.D.


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