Why Alzheimer’s disease is called type 3 diabetes?

Alzheimer's disease is considered insulin resistance of the brain. It is not your genes but your diet that will protect you from it.

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Executive Summary

Diabetes is insulin resistance of the body; Alzheimer’s is insulin resistance of the brain. Same cause; different mechanisms!

If you have insulin resistance, cut down on all carbohydrates. That includes natural sugars from fruits, potatoes, beet, honey, maple syrup, and even grains and legumes.

If you do not have insulin resistance yet, cut down on refined and processed carbohydrates.

I am sure you have heard of type 1 and type 2 diabetes. But have you heard of type 3 diabetes?

In fact, more than 50% of you are already suffering from it. You may have noticed its symptoms, but you thought that they were a part of the normal ageing process.

Sometime in near future, those symptoms can become irreversible, unless you do something about them. Welcome to the modern epidemic of type 3 diabetes, also known as Alzheimer’s disease.

Insulin Resistance

Normal Body

When we eat food, the blood levels of glucose go up. However, our body’s cells cannot use this glucose because the membranes, or covers, of the cells won’t let glucose to pass through them into the cells.

So, our pancreas releases a hormone called insulin. Insulin helps glucose to enter the cells in the body. The cells can then use it for energy. The blood level of insulin falls as the body starts utilising the glucose in the blood.

Every time we eat something, this cycle repeats: blood glucose rises, blood insulin increases in response, blood glucose falls, as it gets utilised.

Development of Insulin Resistance

If we eat a lot of carbohydrates too often, the body’s glucose levels shoot up frequently, forcing large surges of insulin. Over a period of time, the body’s cells start becoming resistant to insulin. Almost like someone caning you as punishment. Done too often, you get inured to the pain. Maybe a bad example, but you get the point. 🙂

As your body’s cells become resistant to insulin, you develop a medical condition called, well, insulin resistance. The cells need more and more insulin to get glucose forced into them through their membranes. The blood level of insulin keeps going up for the same intake of carbohydrates. The hallmark of insulin resistance is elevated levels of insulin all the time.

By the way, insulin does a few more things, which are good for a healthy person and bad for an insulin–resistant person. Read more about physiological effects of insulin.

Obesity

Insulin stimulates your liver to store glucose in the form of glycogen. However, as the level of glycogen rises further, its production stops, and fatty acids are generated that are stored as fat. If your blood insulin levels stay too high, as in insulin resistance, there is a tendency for glucose to be stored as fat, making you gain weight.

Insulin forces most cells to use carbohydrates for energy instead of fats. It also triggers fat accumulation in the fat cells. In other words, insulin resistance can lead to weight gain.

Type 2 Diabetes

Your pancreatic cells, called beta cells, keep making this excess insulin. However, after years of overworking, they start to fatigue out. Since there is nothing like ‘reporting sick’ inside your body, they even start to die. This beta cell death puts more workload on the remaining beta cells, eventually causing your pancreas to make less insulin than required.

In the absence of adequate insulin, your blood sugars start going up and staying high longer. And your cells can’t get enough glucose for their energy, even though they are swimming in excessive glucose. This condition is called type 2 diabetes.

What Happens in the Brain

Your brain cells use far more glucose than the rest of the cells of your body. Nearly half of your body’s glucose utilisation is by the brain cells.

The functioning of the brain is vital for your survival. So, the brain cells get glucose on a priority basis. As a result, apparently, the brain cells do not need insulin to get glucose inside them.

On the other hand, those cells need insulin for processing glucose, as well as various signaling mechanisms in the brain. Different parts of the brain communicate with one another through chemicals, which act as signaling molecules. Some of their functionality depends on insulin as well as the blood glucose levels.

If you go on a dietary fast, you will have very low levels of glucose and insulin in the blood as the fast progresses. In that situation, to help your survival, the body cells will not take in much glucose. But since your brain cells don’t need insulin to take in glucose, your brain will still be able to get glucose.

It is not fully clear what happens with insulin in your brain. However, it seems that in normal people, even low levels of insulin help the brain cells utilise maximum possible glucose they can. And as insulin levels rise, there is no increase in glucose utilisation. Thus, high blood insulin does not affect the brain.

However, in insulin–resistant people, there is an increase in glucose intake by brain cells with rising insulin levels. Thus, the interpretation is that the brain cells of people with insulin resistance are somehow not able to consume the full amount of required glucose. This causes the brain cells to be deprived of their fuel.

Brain Damage

Low glucose consumption by brain cells for prolonged period causes them to wither away slowly. Some of them shrivel and die. The part of the brain that gets affected first is the part that needs more glucose, in general.

One such part is called the Hippocampus, which is the memory centre of the brain. Since this region is deprived of glucose, new memory formation goes down, while older memories may still persist. This is the classical early sign of Alzheimer’s disease.

For more detailed information, read on this website: Early warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.

By the time you notice some signs of memory loss, the hippocampus has already shriveled to 90% of its original size. By now, your brain’s metabolism has reduced to 75%. In a way, your Alzheimer’s disease sets in years before you notice any signs of memory loss. And that onset happens when your brain became insulin–resistant.

How to Prevent Insulin Resistance of the Brain

It is still not known if preventing insulin resistance of the brain will help in preventing Alzheimer’s and other dementias. However, nearly 80% of the people with Alzheimer’s disease have insulin resistance.

If you do not have insulin resistance, go off refined carbohydrates such as sugar, flour, and fruit juices.

If you have insulin resistance, reduce all your carbohydrate intake, including complex carbohydrates. Remember that sugar in any form is sugar.

There is a massive amount of ignorance perpetuated by so–called health gurus that the sugars in fruits are healthy. They are not; nor are the natural sugars such as honey and maple syrup.

If you have insulin resistance, cut down on all sugars including those from potatoes, beets, grains as well as lentils.

One study published in 2013 in the journal Neurobiology of Ageing showed that if one has mild memory loss, eating a low–carbohydrate, high–fat diet can improve the symptoms in six weeks. But, we don’t know if the recovery is 100%, nor do we know if things can worsen later. So, it is better not to hope that this approach is the solution to prevent Alzheimer’s.

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First published on: 7th September 2016
Image credit: geralt on Pixabay
Last updated on: 25th March 2022

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