- and stable blood sugar helps to prevent it
Science has found a link between unstable blood sugar levels, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease (the leading cause of dementia). Type 2 diabetes is spreading like a bushfire, and people many are unware that they have early stages of the disease, typically characterized by fatigue, overweight, and cravings for fast carbohydrates or stimulants. People with Alzheimer’s disease have insulin resistance of the brain, which is why this disease is now referred to as type 3 diabetes. Because it takes many years for Alzheimer’s disease to develop, there is every reason in the world to start early prevention with exercise and a blood sugar-stabilizing diet. Also, a particular trace element may help increase insulin sensitivity, which is why it is vital to get enough of this nutrient.
More than 35 million people worldwide are affected by Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease causes the brain to malfunction because the neurons in different parts of the brain slowly deteriorate. Science has discovered that a slow build-up of proteins called beta-amyloid plaque displaces normal brain cells, resulting in local inflammation and symptoms such as the loss of memory, orientation, and other cognitive skills. Alzheimer’s develops slowly and usually leads to death after about 7-10 years. New research may be able to change this.
Type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by 50-60%
The formation of beta-amyloid plaque in the brain was a mystery to science until the beginning of the third millennium when Professor Suzanne de la Monte from Brown University of Rhode Island, the United States, started blocking the insulin pathways in the brains of laboratory rats. When she did this, the rats started showing signs of Alzheimer’s disease. Professor de la Monte concluded that lack of insulin in the brain was a plausible explanation for the development of beta-amyloid plaque. Insulin, a hormone, is known for its role in channeling glucose into cells. If there is too little insulin or if the insulin is too weak to make the body respond to it, which is what happens with insulin resistance, the cells run short of energy. Suzanne de la Monte therefore assumed that Alzheimer’s disease is the third variety of diabetes – or type 3 diabetes. Her assumption has been confirmed by numerous studies in the meantime. For instance, it turns out that patients with type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance are 50-60% more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease. The studies have prompted Danish diabetes researchers to investigate if diabetes drugs can control Alzheimer’s disease.
Patients with type 1 diabetes:
Patients with type 2 diabetes:
Patients with type 3 diabetes
Insulin resistance and its impact on neurons and on the neurotransmitter, dopamine
According to Albert Gjedde, who is a professor at the Institute of Neuroscience and Pharmacology at the University of Copenhagen, insulin resistance causes damage to those neurons that have insulin receptors and that play a role in the release of dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter.
Dopamine is also called a reward compound and is vital to our learning abilities and well-being. Dopamine maintains the contact between neurons and it stimulates our glucose metabolism, which is normally a way of telling how effectively the brain works. Insulin channels glucose into the (brain) cells, but if the cells have become insulin-resistant, the insulin can no longer make the cells release dopamine, and the dopamine can no longer enable neurons to communicate. This is a vicious cycle where neurons are unable to metabolize glucose and communicate. It affects the memory, consciousness, and orientation – a scenario that is typical of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Although the pancreas is the control center of the body’s insulin production, it remains unclear where the insulin in the brain comes from. Scientists believe that the brain itself produces the insulin it needs and has done so since the beginning of time. However, our diets have changed, especially in the past few decades. There is evidence suggesting that excessive intake of carbohydrates, especially refined carbohydrates, may exhaust certain neurons and their insulin receptors. As we have already witnessed a link between blood glucose levels and the rewarding compound, dopamine, we may be facing a type of sugar dependence that can be difficult to get rid of, even though it is necessary. But what is blood sugar really? How do we keep our blood sugar levels stable in order to ensure a stable and constant supply of energy to the brain?
Did you know
- that the brain and neurons primarily make their energy from glucose?
- that our muscles and heart burn an equal amount of fat and glucose when we are not exhausted?
A main meal provides satiety for 4-6 hours, provided our blood sugar levels are stable
The body breaks down into glucose various types of carbohydrate such as bread, potatoes, pasta, rice, fruit, and sugar. This helps fuel all of our cells. After we consume a meal, our blood glucose levels rise. They go down again later and that is why we feel hungry again.
A main meal should ideally provide satiety for around 4-6 hours, possibly supported by a small snack. Even though there are minor oscillations, our blood glucose level should ideally stay within the normal range. However, many people have way too large blood glucose fluctuations because they consume too many carbohydrates. If their blood glucose levels plummet too rapidly, they risk feeling tempted to consume the wrong kind of carbohydrates, and this can easily lead to overconsumption of calories.
Insulin resistance is a part of metabolic syndrome and early stages of type 2 diabetes
Unstable blood glucose levels may eventually develop into insulin resistance, a permanent impairment of cellular glucose uptake. Once this condition occurs, people feel tired and hungry even right after eating, because the cells do not get the energy they need. The excess calories are rapidly removed from the bloodstream and stored as fat. Insulin resistance is a part of metabolic syndrome with such problems as an apple-shaped body, hypertension, and elevated levels of lipids (cholesterol, triglycerides) in the blood. At the same time, metabolic syndrome is an early stage of type 2 diabetes. Both conditions are about to reach epidemic proportions.
How does chromium affect blood glucose levels?
After we eat or drink something, the glucose we ingest has to reach and enter our cells. Insulin is comparable to a key that unlocks the cells, thereby giving glucose free entry. However, studies show that insulin functions far more efficiently in conjunction with a chromium complex. Insulin and chromium work as a team to ensure that optimal amounts of glucose effectively enter the cells.
In a sense, chromium’s contribution to this fine-tuned combustion of macronutrients can be compared with a car that gives better mileage and pollutes less. In other words, chromium supports optimal glucose uptake in cells, helps blood glucose levels to stay in their normal range, and reduces the need for excess calories.
Chromium’s effect on insulin, blood glucose levels, and the cardiovascular system
Chromium sources and causes of chromium deficiency
Chromium is primarily found in brewer’s yeast, tea leaves, cocoa beans, apricot, seeds, almonds, beans, nuts, fish, and meat. Low chromium levels in the soil result in chromium-depleted crops, and our modern, refined diets only provide us with minimal amounts of this vital nutrient.
When blood glucose levels drop, around 20% of the blood’s chromium content gets excreted in our urine. When we consume too many fast carbohydrates, it can easily deplete our chromium stores. Stimulant abuse takes a heavy toll on blood glucose levels, and this adds to the problem. Stress, permanent dieting, and undernourishment also contribute to a chromium deficiency.
Supplements with chromium yeast have the best effect on blood sugar levels
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has approved chromium for the maintenance of normal blood sugar levels and normal macronutrient metabolism. Furthermore, EFSA has concluded that organic chromium yeast is absorbed up to 10 times better than synthetically manufactured chromium sources such as chromium picolinate and chromium chloride.
If you decide to take a chromium supplement, make sure to read the label:
Organic chromium yeast has up to 10 times better absorption than chromium picolinate and chromium chloride
Other useful tips on how to manage blood sugar levels
- Stick with three healthy main meals (possibly with small snacks in between)
- Remember to include a sufficient amount of protein with all meals
- Do not shy away from fat. However, choose the healthy, unspoiled fats
- Choose coarse carbohydrates with lots of fiber
- Eat lots of vegetable
- Avoid altogether or limit your intake of sugar, juice, and alcohol
- Avoid altogether or limit your intake of caffeinated beverages
- Avoid long-term stress
- Remember to exercise and include many small physical activities in the course of the day
Important: Blood sugar and refined sugar are not the same
Blood sugar only consists of glucose that results from the breakdown of carbohydrates – including starches such as potatoes, rice, wheat, and corn with many glucose units. White (refined) sugar – also called sucrose – consists of the two sugars, glucose and fructose, that are broken down in the digestive system.
Other useful tips on how to prevent Alzheimer’s disease
- Get a good night’s sleep – it remove toxic proteins from the brain
- Make sure to get enough vitamin A, vitamin B (all kinds), zinc, and omega-3
- Engage in mind-challenging exercises (crossword puzzles, reading, writing etc.)
- Avoid smoking
- Check your blood pressure
- Try to maintain a healthy body weight and waist circumference
- If you are diabetic you should stick with your diet and take anti-diabetes medicine if prescribed
Sybille Hildebrandt. Insulinresistens i hjernen kan udløse Alzheimers. Dagens Medicin. 2016
Diabetes Health. Alzheimer’s new name: Type 3 Diabetes. 2014
Yi Yang et al. High Glucose Promotes Aβ Production by inhibiting APP Degradation. PLoS One 2013
Suzanne M. de la Monte et al. Alzheimer’s Disease Is Type 3 Diabetes-Evidence Reviewed. Journal of Diabetes Science Technology 2008
Zeng J, Chen L, Wang Z et al. Marginal vitamin A deficiency facilitates Alzheimer´s pathogenesis. Published online January 27 2017
Underwood Emily. Sleep: The ultimate Brainwasher? Science/AAAS/News 2013
Pernille Lund: Sådan får du styr på dit blodsukker og din vægt. Ny Videnskab 2013
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