only does junk food make you fat, but it could cause dementia. New research
shows that our calorie-laden diet boosts risk for dementia, a memory-robbing
disorder some experts now call “type 3 diabetes.”
are literally eating a ‘diabetes diet’ that’s very toxic to the brain and other
vital organs,” says Dr. Joel Zonszein, medical director of the diabetes clinic
at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City. “And the one of the most
terrible complications—brain damage—is occurring in younger and younger
shocking new study reports that teenagers who eat a diet that’s high in fat
and calories already show “accelerated cognitive decline.” The researchers
blame rising rates of dementia on our increasingly unhealthy eating habits and
couch potato lifestyle.
it’s long been known that type 2 diabetics are at higher risk for memory loss, another new study found
that damage to key brain areas involved in memory and cognitive skills starts
when blood sugar hits the high end of the “normal” range, even when other risk
factors, such as smoking, high blood pressure, and alcohol consumption are
taken into account.
two studies reveal the hazards of a pre-diabetic condition called insulin
resistance (IR), which tends to strike people who have a large waistline (even
if their weight is normal), eat a poor diet, and spend long hours sitting in
front of a computer (or the TV), says Dr. Zonszein.
new study found that both IR and diabetes contribute to formation of a type
of brain plaque linked to Alzheimer’s disease, the memory-stealing disease that
affects 5.4 million Americans.
the August 25 issue of Neurology, Japanese
scientists wrote, “adequate
control of diabetes might contribute to a strategy for the prevention of
Alzheimer's disease.” Several clinical trials are now testing the effects of
medication to improve insulin sensitivity in older people with cognitive
impairment to see if this approach helps protect the brain.
What’s the link between a poor diet and dementia? “Junk
food contributes to both central adiposity and chronic inflammation that
damages small and large blood vessels that supply the brain,” says Dr.
Zonszein. That’s dangerous, since microvessel disease is the leading cause of
Although people with big bellies have lots of fat cells,
adds Dr. Zonszein, “their cells are very inefficient in the metabolic process
(converting food into energy to power the body). As a result, fat is stored in places it
shouldn’t be, such as the liver and heart, and rising levels of blood sugar
start to injure the brain.” In addition, people with IR have lower levels of
HDL, the good cholesterol that helps keep the heart and brain healthy.
A Dangerous Gang of Metabolic Villains
“We’re now seeing
diabetic patients as young as 50 with significant brain damage—and the new
research is telling us that people with insulin resistance and metabolic
syndrome are at much higher risk for dementia than was previously believed,” notes
About 50 million Americans, many of whom are undiagnosed,
syndrome--a gang of five cardiometabolic thugs that quintuple a person's risk for type
2 diabetes and triple it for heart attack. By definition, everyone with
metabolic syndrome has insulin resistance. If you have three of more of the
following disorders, you have metabolic syndrome:
A large waistline (above 40 inches for a man or
35 inches for a woman). This also is called "an apple shape."
High triglycerides: a level of this blood fat
that’s above 150 mg/dL
Low HDL (less than 50 mg/dL for women and less
than 40 mg/dL for men). HDL is the good cholesterol that keeps the heart and
brain healthy. In fact, some research indicates that HDL is the best “food”
for the brain.
High blood pressure: 130/85 mmHg or higher (or
you’re on blood pressure medicine).
High fasting blood sugar: 100 mg/dL or above (or you're on medicine to treat high blood
How to Protect Your Brain
The good news is that the right diet, regular
exercise—and keeping your weight down—dramatically reduce risk for metabolic
syndrome and diabetes, which in turn helps lower risk for dementia.
“Most people with insulin resistance graze all
day on high-calorie foods,” says Dr. Zonszein. “What they should do is eat
three heart-healthy, low-fat meals a day with colorful fruits and vegetables,
high-fiber whole grains, and lean protein, such as fish or chicken, on their
Also limit—or better still, avoid—sweet drinks,
including fruit juice and sports drinks. A recent study
shows that high-fructose sweeteners, in particular, may be driving the
development of brain-harming microvessel disease.
This sweetener, ubiquitous in
processed foods, appears to boost levels of a cell-damaging toxin called uric
acid, the researchers report, magnifying risk for vascular dementia, chronic
kidney disease, stroke, and heart disease.