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Dementia and Insulin Resistance: Can It Be Controlled By A Low-Carb Diet?

December 31, 2008

After my most recent blog, I had some requests to address the connection between low-carb diets and their effect on dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Here’s what we know: A study in 2009, as well as other recent studies, demonstrated that a diet lower in carbohydrates may be beneficial in treating Alzheimer’s disease. This research shows that changing to a low-carbohydrate nutritional approach gives the brain the preferred fuel source it crave ketone bodies to function at optimal levels and effectively reverse the impact of Alzheimer’s disease. And we know from research released in 2005 that the use of a high fat ketogenic diet can effectively improve conditions such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and Lou Gehrig’s disease has shown great results to those who have tried it.

Based on this research, the type of diet you follow could have a profound impact on a variety of health factors. But there is another school of thought on how experts feel these conditions can be controlled. According to a study published in the February 2009 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, lead researcher Dr. William L. Klein, Professor of Neurobiology & Physiology at Northwestern University, and his team concluded the effect that insulin has on lowering blood sugar can protect the brain from toxic proteins that lead to Alzheimer’s disease which they acknowledge is indeed a “Type 3 diabetes” of the brain. They added that treating the neurologically-diseased and Alzheimer’s patients with insulin and a diabetic prescription medication called Avandia improved brain function and should be used as a routine treatment option for people suffering from these conditions.

Plus, we can thank Swedish researchers who have already demonstrated to us that high blood sugar levels and Alzheimer’s disease are indelibly connected. So, wouldn’t it stand to reason that controlling the blood glucose in the body would help to manage diseases of the brain like Alzheimer’s? Sure it would. But rather than attempting to use dietary treatment options like an aggressive low-carb, high-fat diet, researchers like Dr. Klein suggest that injecting insulin and drugs into Alzheimer patients may be the solution.

In fact, according to the NIH-related National Institute on Aging web site, research is already underway looking at the impact of an insulin nasal spray on memory for patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Their thinking is to squirt the insulin directly into the brain through the nose to avoid the hypoglycemic response that would happen if injected in the traditional way into the arm. But like Type 2 diabetics who are told to keep eating sugar and carbohydrates as long as you just give yourself insulin shots, this is not the optimal approach to helping people dealing with Type 3 diabetes–Alzheimer’s disease.

Why not encourage carbohydrate-restriction to these patients? Then the need for insulin and diabetes medications becomes irrelevant because blood sugar and insulin are controlled naturally through their diet and thus treated just as effectively if not better. Once again, this goes to show that making healthy changes to your lifestyle and way of eating have the potential to have a much bigger impact than just on your waistline.

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How has the Atkins diet helped improve your health? What are your thoughts on the potential impact of a low-carb diet on diseases like Alzheimer’s? I’d love to hear! Please share your thoughts with the Atkins Community and also let me know what you’d like to hear about in the future.

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