Can Skipping Processed Foods Prevent Alzheimer's?

Evidence suggests Alzheimer’s may just be another type of diabetes, which means it may be controllable through diet.
Evidence suggests Alzheimer's may be another form of diabetes, which could make it controllable through diet. (Photo: Paul Burns/Getty Images)
Sep 30, 2012· 1 MIN READ
A Bay Area native, Andri Antoniades has previously worked as a fashion industry journalist and a medical writer.

New York Times food writer and health advocate Mark Bittman reports that since 2005, it’s been widely suspected that Alzheimer’s is actually just “Type 3 diabetes”. But findings from recent studies also suggest that like other forms of diabetes, this “brain disease” could be controllable through better food choices.

There are currently two main types of diabetes, according to the Times. Type 1 usually develops in childhood, has no known cause and accounts for about ten percent of all cases. But Type 2 is diet-induced and is caused by ingesting large quantities of hyperprocessed foods. It used to be called “adult-onset diabetes” until it became prevalent in children who ate that same sugary, nitrate-laden diet.

In 2005, the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease published a study which found that Alzheimer’s patients exhibited similar abnormalities in insulin as other diabetics, The Huffington Post reports. And recently, an article published in New Scientist, gives greater sway to the argument that like Type 2 diabetes, the brain disorder could be controlled through better food choices that keep insulin levels steady.

The reason why is fairly simple. Insulin regulates blood sugar in the body. When you consistently flood the body with hyperprocessed foods, the cells become overwhelmed by all that sugar and stop responding to insulin (a condition known as insulin resistance). The leftover sugar is then allowed to run amok, causing inflammation and eventually ailments like heart disease, nerve damage, and ocular degeneration. According to The Huffington Post, when that damage finally reaches the brain, memory function is impaired, disorientation sets in, and according to some researchers, the patient develops Alzheimer’s.

Bittman writes that the American diet of hyperprocessed foods has caused rates of Type 2 diabetes to nearly triple in the last 40 years. Alzheimer’s too is expected to escalate rapidly in the near future, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. This one-two punch means that as our population ages and grows more obese, the effects on our mental health could be as devastating as those on our physical health.

Alzheimer’s used to be thought of as something that "just happened" by chance. But its link to insulin resistance means it might be regulated by keeping blood sugar levels steady through a diet high in antioxidant-rich plants and low in processed foods, sugar and saturated fats.

Do you see any correlation between a heavily processed diet and mental impairment? Let us know how you keep yourself mentally healthy in the Comments.