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Why Avoiding Sugar Benefits Brain Health

Posted on January 28, 2015 by Ruth Buttigieg | 0 comments

Sugar is currently the focus of what is wrong with the nation’s diet. Apart from the ‘obvious’ reasons why sugar in large amount is bad for health - eg: obesity, type 2 diabetes, etc, sugar in the diet has also been linked to brain health and ageing. With growing levels of individuals being diagnosed with a form of dementia (there are more than 100 forms of dementia), the message of what can be done to prevent and manage dementia is a common topic. So, what can people do to change their lifestyles and nutrition to have a positive impact on their health?


Current Sugar Intake


Figures published in 2014 showed that in the UK, the average individual intake of added sugar was 11% of their dietary intake, with children aged 4-10 and 11-18 averaging 14.7% and 15.6% of food energy respectively. Earlier this year, 5 toddlers in Scotland were diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes, the first time this condition was diagnosed at such a young age.


Sugar and the Brain


So how does the sugar in your diet affect your brain health in the short and long term? Although there is no definitive consensus on what causes Alzheimer’s, studies are showing a link between having high levels of sugar and their effect on brain function.


The brain’s primary source of fuel is glucose (sugar). However, if there is an underlying impaired carbohydrate metabolism, then issues can arise. A striking test shows that the rate of glucose uptake in individuals with Alzheimer’s declines quite markedly. Therefore the theory goes that if the brain is unable to effectively use glucose (which is leading to a decline in brain function due to decreased sugar available), then why not use an alternative fuel such as ketones?


Alternative Brain Fuels


It is a known fact that the brain can use alternative fuels for normal function. Ketones are a preferred brain energy source and studies show that these are a more efficient source of energy. A myriad of studies are looking at how a decrease in sugar intake contributes to improved cognition and memory functions, especially during the ageing process.

Whilst academic research specifically looking at ketogenic diets and their impacts on Alzheimer’s disease are few (however a few key studies are in the pipeline and are currently recruiting on both sides of the Atlantic), there is a lot of anecdotal evidence from other areas of neurology as well as from personal experiences who have seen an improvement in their condition.


This positive impact of altering the brain’s fuel function can also be seen in other areas of brain health. Managing epilepsy through a ketogenic diet is a recognised medical approach both in the UK and the USA. There has also been interest in cognitive improvement in ageing as well as in Parkinson’s Disease and in the management of brain carcinomas and improvement in brain injury outcomes.

 

So what are you waiting for? Feel free to get in touch with us. We’ll answer any questions you may have and help you make an informed decision.



References:


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Cunnane, S., Nugent, S., Roy, M., Courchesne-Loyer, A., Croteau, E., Tremblay, S., Castellano, A., Pifferi, F., Bocti, C., Paquet, N. and others, (2011). Brain fuel metabolism, aging, and Alzheimer’s disease. Nutrition, 27(1), pp.3--20.

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Krikorian, R., Shidler, M., Dangelo, K., Couch, S., Benoit, S. and Clegg, D. (2012). Dietary ketosis enhances memory in mild cognitive impairment. Neurobiology of aging, 33(2), pp.425--19.

Papanikolaou, Y., Palmer, H., Binns, M., Jenkins, D. and Greenwood, C. (2006). Better cognitive performance following a low-glycaemic-index compared with a high-glycaemic-index carbohydrate meal in adults with type 2 diabetes. Diabetologia, 49(5), pp.855--862.

Small, G., Silverman, D., Siddarth, P., Ercoli, L., Miller, K., Lavretsky, H., Wright, B., Bookheimer, S., Barrio, J. and Phelps, M. (2006). Effects of a 14-day healthy longevity lifestyle program on cognition and brain function. The American journal of geriatric psychiatry, 14(6), pp.538--545.

Starr, V. and Convit, A. (2007). Diabetes, sugar-coated but harmful to the brain. Current opinion in pharmacology, 7(6), pp.638--642.

Van der Auwera, I., Wera, S., Van Leuven, F. and Henderson, S. (2005). A ketogenic diet reduces amyloid beta 40 and 42 in a mouse model of Alzheimer's disease. Nutrition & metabolism, 2(1), p.28.

Whitmer, R. (2007). Type 2 diabetes and risk of cognitive impairment and dementia. Current neurology and neuroscience reports, 7(5), pp.373--380.

Yaffe, K., Lindquist, K., Schwartz, A., Vitartas, C., Vittinghoff, E., Satterfield, S., Simonsick, E., Launer, L., Rosano, C., Cauley, J. and others, (2011). Advanced glycation end product level, diabetes, and accelerated cognitive aging. Neurology, 77(14), pp.1351--1356.

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