Wednesday, March 27, 2013

More on Alzheimer's and Type 3 Diabetes

I'm not in the field of dementia care anymore but two close family members with these symptoms keep me needing to pay attention. My dad is in a nursing home right now, and my mother reports that all the patients seem to want to eat is sugar. The family caregivers I used to work with would report the same thing. Long before the scientific evidence started to pile up, those of us working in the field knew there had to be some correlation between memory loss and confusion and these bizarre sugar cravings. Patients lose their appetites for anything else. It is now thought that a lot of what we call Alzheimer's Disease is most likely insulin resistance in the brain caused by excessive sugar consumption, lack of exercise and — this is something scientists do not say — whatever it is that causes people to substitute sweets for what the rest of us consider to be the "sweetness" in life.

I feel I must go out on a limb with this a bit. Too many Alzheimer's patients have spent many years being isolated and lonely, have suffered the trauma of losing their spouse or significant other, have few if any hobbies, or otherwise feel like they have little to live for except watching endless amounts of TV with a bowl of ice cream or plate of cookies close at hand.

There is also sufficient evidence to suggest that early stage Type 3 Diabetes (and therefore most Alzheimer's Disease) can be easily reversed if caught soon enough with exercise, insulin and more moderate sugar consumption. Going for a walk three times a week is enough to make a big difference in someone who is excessively sedentary. Making it a rule never to eat sugar on an empty stomach or substituting more protein and fat and fewer carbohydrates can make a big difference right away regardless of the amount of exercise. And try arranging it so your loved one takes that walk and eats that meal with someone who loves them! That could make the biggest difference in quality of life for both the patient and all concerned.

Scientific articles:

Layman's articles: