• How Do Diets High in Carbs Impact Chronic Disease

    The past few decades have brought about monumental changes in practically all aspects of our lives. From how we get information to what we eat – the way we did things just twenty years ago is significantly different from much today. When it comes to nutrition and eating these changes couldn’t be more evident.

    And while much of this change is welcomed, some of the side effects that come along with this change may be costly. This is especially true when it comes to diet. Not only how we eat but also what we eat has changed drastically over the past few decades. However, the nutrients are bodies need to ward off chronic disease and live optimally have not changed much.

    These changes in eating, and simultaneous decrease in activity levels, are wreaking havoc on the body. Evidence of this can be seen in the obesity epidemic, the overwhelming number of people diagnosed with chronic disease and the substantial increase in people diagnosed with type 1 and 2 diabetes over just the last 20 years. And now, sadly, type 3 diabetes is being talked about as the ‘new diabetes.’

    Brown University’s Suzanne de la Monte, MD, PhD, a neuropathologist at the school, originated the term ‘type 3 diabetes’ as another name for Alzheimer’s disease. After studying the brains’ of 45 people who died from Alzheimer’s, de la Monte discovered that those with most progressed stages of the disease had brains with the least insulin activity. These people were also found to have characteristics of both type 1 (low insulin levels) and type 2 (insulin resistance) diabetes which led to the term ‘type 3 diabetes.’

    Many are surprised to learn of a connection between insulin and Alzheimer’s. However recent research is revealing a connection between diets high in carbohydrates and sugars and the increased diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. According to Mayo Clinic doctor, Yonas E. Geda, who recently conducted research into this link, seniors who ate diets high in sugars and refined carbs were four times more likely to develop mild cognitive impairment. Mild cognitive impairment is one of the first symptoms of Alzheimer’s.

    Diets high in refined carbohydrates and sugar have a negative impact on numerous body functions. Eating too many carbs and sugars propels a spike in blood sugar. The body produces insulin to help lower blood sugar levels by moving extra sugars to the cells to be stored for later use. After this cycle continually repeats, day after day, month after month, the body no longer responds to the insulin surges (insulin resistance) leaving blood sugar and insulin levels high.

    The way blood sugar levels impact insulin production and storage in the body occur in a parallel process in the brain. When a person consumes large amounts of carbohydrates, insulin levels in the brain are altered and eventually insulin resistance develops.

    Insulin in the brain is essential for neurotransmitter regulation as well as memory and learning. Both memory and learning are significantly impacted by Alzheimer’s. Insulin is also necessary for new memories to be formed. The latest research is showing that catastrophic memory loss is directly connected to insulin issues in the brain.

    Today’s diet is often high in carbohydrates. This is in part due to the traditional food pyramid and the heavy emphasis on the carbs category which traditionally recommends 6 to 11 servings a day. Adding to this is the false premise that all fats are bad for you. Many have moved from eating any fats at all and replacing this with carbohydrates. This could be a costly mistake. Many fats are good for your health and contain anti-inflammatory properties – a key in fighting chronic disease including Alzheimer’s.

    The most commonly consumed carbohydrates are highly processed and come from a box, can, bag or other package which means it is about as far from fresh as it can be. These types of carbs will continually spike the sugar levels in the body, which leads to the dangerous blood sugar spike- insulin production cycle.

    What’s more, many people are experiencing reactions to gluten in carbohydrates. About 30% of society members have some type of gluten sensitivity or intolerance. Many don’t even know it. This leads to more inflammation throughout the body, including the brain.

    Eating a healthy diet is essential for living a disease-free life with optimal health and wellness. When you eat fresh and locally sourced foods free of harmful toxins you give your body the best shot at functioning at its optimal. Today there are more and more healthy eating options out there. A great rule of thumb is to eat fresh foods from your local area that are in season.

    By Barb Cronin

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