Is someone you love suffering from Alzheimer’s disease? If so, you know how devastating this tragic disease is—not only for the people who suffer from it, but for their friends and families as well. That’s why we fear it even more than cancer, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, or stroke. But here’s something you might not know. Increasingly, scientists are calling Alzheimer’s disease by another name: Type 3 diabetes.
The scientist who coined this term—Suzanne de la Monte, a neuropathologist at Brown University—discovered that rats with insulin resistance (the forerunner of diabetes) “developed an Alzheimer-like disease pattern, including neurodegeneration.” Dr. de la Monte says that Alzheimer’s has “virtually all of the features of diabetes, but is largely confined to the brain.”
Dr. de la Monte’s findings are consistent with the fact that diabetics have a much higher rate of Alzheimer’s disease than non-diabetics. They’re also in line with research showing that people with high blood glucose levels are at elevated risk for dementia even if they don’t have diabetes.
Recent studies are shedding still more light on the connection between Alzheimer’s and insulin resistance or diabetes. For example:
A 2017 study found that the fluctuations in fasting plasma glucose and HbA1c (a long-term blood glucose measurement) that are common in diabetics are independently associated with a higher risk for Alzheimer’s disease.
A 2016 study of patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) concluded that Type 2 diabetes “may accelerate cognition deterioration in patients with MCI by affecting glucose metabolism and brain volume.”
Another 2016 study found that “glucose levels in the diabetic range are associated with reduced cortical thickness [ a sign of brain atrophy] in Alzheimer’s disease-vulnerable regions as early as middle age.”
Given the link between blood sugar problems and Alzheimer’s, it’s no surprise that along with a skyrocketing rate of diabetes, we’re seeing more and more cases of Alzheimer’s disease. With as many as one in three Americans predicted to have diabetes by 2050, we may be facing a massive epidemic of Alzheimer’s in a few decades.
The good news: Type 3 diabetes is PREVENTABLE
Is there any good news hiding amongst all this bad news? Luckily, the answer is a resounding YES.
Just as you can slash your risk of diabetes by changing your lifestyle, you can cut your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by making healthy choices. While certain genes can raise your risk for Alzheimer’s disease (especially the early-onset type), environment is a stronger factor for the majority of people—and that’s something you can change.
What’s more, the lifestyle changes that help prevent Type 2 and Type 3 diabetes will lower your risk for other age-related diseases as well—from cancer to stroke to high blood pressure. So it’s a big win all around.
Here are my top ten suggestions for warding off both Type 2 and Type 3 diabetes:
1. Cut the carbs. This is absolutely crucial. A high-carb diet spikes your blood sugar all day long, leading to insulin resistance—so reduce or eliminate grains and sugar, and eat healthier carbs like sweet potatoes and beets only in moderation. Instead, center your diet around lean proteins, loads of non-starchy veggies, healthy fats (more on this in a minute), and small amounts of fruit, and you’ll get the nutrients you need while keeping your blood sugar low.
2. Lose the belly. You already know that a spare tire puts you at risk for diabetes—but it also doubles your risk of developing elevated levels of amyloid, a sticky protein that forms the plaques seen in Alzheimer’s. To take those extra pounds off fast, try my Bone Broth Diet.
3. Move, move, move. Exercise lowers your insulin levels and keeps your blood vessels in good shape—a must for a healthy brain and body.
4. Avoid nitrites and nitrates. Dr. de la Monte believes that these are major players in Type 3 diabetes. Luckily, it’s easy to find nitrite- and nitrate-free bacon and lunch meats these days (my favorite brand is Applegate).
5. Supplement wisely. Getting adequate amounts of nutrients ranging from magnesium to vitamin D can help protect you against diabetes. Even if you eat a good diet, a multivitamin and multi-mineral supplement can offer extra protection. Also, take a good probiotic/prebiotic supplement to keep your gut healthy—because a healthy gut translates into lower inflammation, and a lower risk for both Type 2 and Type 3 diabetes.
6. Spice up your life. Many herbs and spices have powerful anti-inflammatory effects—and some, like turmeric, can lower your blood sugar as well.
7. Eat good fats in moderation. Eat healthy fats like avocado oil, olive oil, pastured butter, and coconut oil every day, because your brain needs these good fats to function. However, don’t overdo even these healthy fats—a few tablespoons a day will do the job.
8. Sleep tight. Getting a good night’s sleep helps keep your metabolism humming and your blood glucose levels low. Also, if sleep apnea is a problem for you, get it addressed because it’s a risk factor for both diabetes and Alzheimer’s.
9. Stub out that smoking habit and limit alcohol. Both of these go without saying, right?
Follow these simple steps, and you’ll have an excellent chance of making it into your 70s, 80s, and even 90s with a sharp brain and a good memory. In addition, you’ll cut your risk of Type 2 diabetes to nearly zero. How awesome is that?
Is dementia reversible?
It’s exciting to know that you can take active steps to help prevent both diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease—and that’s not the end of the good news. A few years ago, researchers at UCLA reported something even more astonishing: Following a healthy, low-carb lifestyle may sometimes partially or fully reverse “irreversible” dementia.
The researchers enrolled ten patients in the early stages of Alzheimer’s in a program based on eliminating simple carbohydrates and gluten (and, for some patients, all grains) and focusing on nutrient-rich foods like fish, vegetables, fruits, and coconut oil (supplemented with nutrients including B12, CoQ10, vitamin D, and DHA). Participants also took probiotics to optimize their gut health, underwent fasts to normalize their insulin levels, practiced meditation and yoga to reduce stress, exercised, and slept for eight hours a night.
In short, they basically made the same lifestyle changes I just outlined. The result: Within just a few months, nine of the ten patients reported that their memory was far better or even completely normal. This was a small study that needs to be replicated, but the initial findings are nothing short of amazing.
I’m always preaching about how good food and a healthy lifestyle are the best medicine, and there are no clearer examples than Type 2 and Type 3 diabetes. The best way to dodge these bullets is to take control of your health—and the sooner you start, the better off you AND your brain will be.
Keep thinking Big and living BOLD!