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Dementia may seem inevitable but research increasingly suggests it can be the result of poor lifestyle decisions. You may want to think twice about drinking soda and other sugary items. “Without doubt one of the leading causes of memory loss is sugar (found in both food and drinks),” warned nutritionist Rory Batt.
According to Mr Batt, one of the mechanisms of dementia is actually an altered metabolism of sugar within the brain.
“Just like in diabetes, where cells can become resistant to the actions of insulin, so can the brain.”
In fact, diseases such as Alzhiemer’s have actually been sometimes referred to as “type 3 diabetes”, explained the nutritionist.
“This is due to the insulin resistance that occurs within the brain that alters its metabolism, and therefore the way it processes memory.”
Research supports his claim. Research presented at Alzheimer’s Association International Conference has shown that sugary drink intake is associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease – the most common cause of dementia.
No matter the form of sugar – fizzy drinks, sweets, cakes – those who had the highest consumption of sugar in the study were found to have the highest risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
Doctor Doug Brown, Chief Policy and Research Officer at Alzheimer’s Society, said at the time: “Dementia is one of the 21st century’s biggest killers, with one person developing the condition every three minutes. With no way to slow down or cure dementia, risk reduction is critical.
“Too much sugar is linked to type 2 diabetes and our previous research has identified type 2 diabetes as a risk factor for dementia. This study backs up this evidence, suggesting that excess sugar may increase our risk of Alzheimer’s disease, and all types of sugar – from fruit juice to lemonade – have the same impact.
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“By cutting down on the fizzy drinks, sweets and cakes and eating a varied and balanced diet we will be able to reduce our risk of developing dementia in later life.”
Aslo, sugar is super inflammatory and can create neuroinflammation (inflammation of the brain), noted Mr Batt.
He added: “Having immune cells be overactive in the brain due to inflammation can interfere with proper signalling, and cause some of the disturbances to cognitive processing including memory impairments.”
Other experts acknowledge the link but are more equivocal.
Speaking to Express.co.uk in August, Doctor Sara Imarisio, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK spoke about the problem of cause and effect.
As the doc explained, it can be difficult to tease apart the impact of specific dietary decisions from other factors that can affect dementia risk, and “we don’t yet know how much our choice of beverage can affect the development of diseases like Alzheimer’s”.
Nonetheless, “fizzy drinks, soft drinks, juices and adding excessive amounts of sugar to hot drinks have also been linked to an increased risk of dementia in some studies because of the effect sugar has on increasing our likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease”, she said.
According to Mr Batt, you should also avoid eating too many fried foods, such as chips, crisps and baked goods using vegetable (rapeseed (canola), soybean, sunflower, and corn) oils.
“These contain a lot of omega-6 fatty acids, which are in themselves inflammatory (only when consumed in absence of their counterparts Omega-3’s),” he warned.
According to the nutritionist, having too many omega-6 in the diet in proportion to omega-3 can alter the structural lining of cells (in the brain) and cause changes to how it communicates.
When oils rich in omega-6 are used in deep frying, they undergo a chemical change called peroxidation – which makes them very inflammatory and damaging to cells, warned Mr Batt.
“Damaged cells don’t communicate well, and can lead to alteration in the neurochemical signalling that is involved in memory.”
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