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  • Writer's pictureMelanie

A quick guide to Ultra-Processed Foods, Sugar, and Alzheimer's


doughnuts sugar

In recent years, mounting research has shed light on the intricate connection between dietary habits, particularly the consumption of ultra-processed foods and high sugar intake, and the development of Alzheimer's disease. Alzheimer's, a neurodegenerative disorder characterized by cognitive decline and memory loss, affects millions worldwide. As we delve deeper into the complexities of this disease, it becomes increasingly evident that our dietary choices play a crucial role in its onset and progression.

 

The Impact of Ultra-Processed Foods:


Ultra-processed foods, defined as ready-to-eat or ready-to-heat products containing multiple ingredients and additives, often lack essential nutrients and are typically high in unhealthy fats, sugars, and sodium. Common examples include sugary snacks, fast food items, packaged desserts, and carbonated beverages. Research published in reputable scientific journals has consistently linked the consumption of these foods with various health issues, including obesity, cardiovascular diseases, and type 2 diabetes.

Chronic inflammation and oxidative stress, induced by the consumption of these foods, promote the accumulation of beta-amyloid plaques and tau protein tangles in the brain—hallmark characteristics of Alzheimer's pathology.

 

burger, fries, milkshake, sundae

 The Sugar Connection:

 

One of the key culprits in ultra-processed foods is sugar. Excessive sugar intake not only contributes to weight gain but also triggers inflammation and oxidative stress in the body, leading to cellular damage. Moreover, emerging evidence suggests that high sugar consumption may have detrimental effects on brain health. Studies have indicated that elevated blood sugar levels can impair cognitive function and increase the risk of cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer's disease. The brain relies on glucose for its energy source, the glucose being brought into the cell by insulin. The problems begin when there is too much glucose in the bloodstream, from a diet high in sugar and highly processed carbohydrates. This leads to high levels of insulin, with cells becoming desensitised to its effects, meaning that the glucose can’t enter the cells where it is needed, and the cells becoming starved from lack of glucose. This contributes to neuronal dysfunction. Alzheimer’s is now widely described as Diabetes Type 3, for good reason.

 

 Promoting Brain Health Through Dietary Choices:

 

As awareness of this link grows, there's a growing emphasis on adopting dietary patterns that support brain health. Opting for whole, minimally processed foods rich in nutrients, antioxidants, and healthy fats can help protect against cognitive decline. Incorporating a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and lean proteins into your diet provides essential vitamins and minerals that support optimal brain function. Dr Dean Sherzai and Dr Ayesha Sherzai, authors of The Alzheimer’s Solution, recommend following a mainly whole-food plant-based diet, similar to those seen in the Blue Zones. Research has shown that this approach can prevent memory loss. The earlier the approach is adopted, the better the results as it has been shown that the deterioration in brain health can begin over 20 years before we see the onset of symptoms. However, it is never too late to start adopting a better way of establishing good eating habits, as again, research shows cognitive decline can be slowed or even reversed.

 

Takeaway:

 

By making informed dietary choices and prioritising whole, nutrient-dense foods, we can not only safeguard our brain health but also reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer's and other neurodegenerative disorders. Remember, every bite counts when it comes to nourishing our bodies and minds. Fill your plates with real food: colourful vegetables, fruit, wholegrains such as brown rice and quinoa, healthy fats from nuts and seeds, protein from beans, lentils, tofu and small amounts of fresh fish (not farmed). Avoid buying fast food, biscuits, sweets, ready meals, crisps and other processed foods as much as possible, older you will thank you for it. Sugar-free also doesn’t cut it, as this often means made with artificial sweeteners, the long-term effects of these are not known. If it isn’t real food, don’t put it in your mouth!


rainbow salad

If you would like help in overhauling your diet to become more brain friendly, get in touch.

Stay informed, stay healthy.

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