When we come across a new truth we can see how it connects to larger truths. Sometimes that’s uncomfortable, strange, or paradigm-shifting. Sometimes it’s so logical we wonder how it’s not part of our everyday conversation.
Lately I’ve been reading new research findings. What I’m seeing amplifies what we can see on a larger scale—that we need to work with nature rather than try to control it. In terms of our health that means we must look very carefully at how tactics we’ve used to subvert nature’s designs (relying on chemical fertilizers and pesticides, feeding antibiotics and grains to ruminants, overprocessing foods, super obsessive hygiene, and so on) come back to affect us (and our planet) in ways we hadn’t anticipated. Let’s talk a little about Alzheimer’s research. It’s good news!
I got my first real job when I was 13. It was at a nursing home, where I fed residents who were unable to feed themselves. It was a heart-wrenching experience. There were a few people who suffered from cognitive decline, mostly due to stroke or hardening of the arteries. But most people were there because they couldn’t manage living alone after developing heart disease or emphysema, breaking a hip, going blind, or other overwhelming physical problem. Their frailty frightened me but I also learned a great deal from people 70 and 80 years older than me. In that 100 bed unit, back in the 1970’s, there wasn’t a single patient with Alzheimer’s disease.
Sure, the life-disintegrating disease was first identified in 1901. And yes, detection and diagnosis may very well change the way we track those numbers. Still it’s clear there’s an massive increase in the incidence of Alzheimer’s. It’s seen most often in the developed world, while in rural areas of India and China the risk is very slight. This devastating disease robs of us of our loved ones. It deprives our culture of the elder wisdom we so desperately need. I know of several people who developed it in their late 50’s and early 60’s. I know people suffering with it now. It’s not the new normal.
Recently, some amazing studies have emerged. They aren’t particularly useful to the pharmaceutical industry, where research is geared to big profits in prescription drugs. They aren’t easily applied by the medical establishment which leans toward medications, treatment, and surgeries. Instead they have much more to do with what we eat and the way we live. The clues lead to breakthroughs in understanding Alzheimer’s disease. Please read the linked information, as I’m only giving a brief overview.
We’ve been advised by experts for decades that dietary cholesterol causes heart disease (it doesn’t, no matter how exhaustively you look at the research). We’ve been prescribed a lifetime of statins when our cholesterol levels are deemed “too high” even though cholesterol is essential for brain function. We’ve been told to eat low fat diets, particularly to avoid foods that we humans have been eating for eons. We’re even told our friend the sun, which fuels all life on this planet, is an enemy best defeated with sunscreen.
Yet we are substantially fatter, developing autoimmune disorders at epidemic rates, with a terrifying surge in Alzheimer’s disease. A report in the New England Journal of Medicine forecasts a decline in life expectancy in the US. Clearly we’re on the wrong path.
Blood sugar surges, infection, and inflammation are a few of the many interrelated ways that our brains suffer from an unnatural diet. I urge you to read the technical but entirely worthwhile article by MIT researcher Stephanie Seneff, titled “APOE-4.” To me it reads like a detective work starting with how our brains function, then following clues the brain gives us. She explains how cholesterol contributes to healthy brain function, which is why she urges daily intake of natural fats along with high levels of protein. She also points to the importance of maintaining normal vitamin D and calcium levels while avoiding the rush of elevated blood sugar that comes from eating much of today’s processed foods. Following her recommendations helps to steer the body away from inflammation and infection which can seriously impair brain health. She also has nothing nice to say about statin drugs.
Her report is in keeping with more recent research (building on studies done over the last few years) that Alzheimer’s disease is related to damage caused by years of blood sugar spikes, which are the side effect of the average western diet. It’s being called diabetes of the brain or type 3 diabetes. This has been all over the news that last few weeks with headlines like “Junk food destroys the brain.” It’s quite a bit more complicated than that (for example, mindfulness practices like meditation reduces inflammation too) but those headlines aren’t lying.
This research also ties in to the increased incidence of autism. A low fat diet plus low vitamin D levels can cause changes to a fetus’ developing brain (please read all the way through this linked article for details). This sets off a cascade of issues, including poor calcium uptake and inflammation. Other promising research links a pregnant woman’s inflammatory response to higher rates of autism in her child. There are other underlying factors, including immune systems that are insufficiently challenged due to overly hygenic lifestyles and even the absence of parasites. And again, it’s much more complicated. It can be related to the father’s age, to gut bacteria, even to one’s ethnic group. Let’s recognize, autism may well be the next step in human development, opening us to wider neurodiversity. Neuratypical individuals have unique skills and perspectives that offer society new avenues for progress.
There’s no fault implied in any of these studies. We do the best we can with what we know. But maybe today’s brains are struggling to tell us that well-meaning attempts to make our lives better with sterile environments, processed food, and indoor lives simply takes us too far from our roots in nature. Maybe they’re telling us pollution, particularly ultrafine particle pollution, can cause degenerative brain diseases. More research needs to be done, but there’s plenty we can do right now.
For more information check out:
Know Your Fats : The Complete Primer for Understanding the Nutrition of Fats, Oils and Cholesterol
Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats
The Happiness Diet: A Nutritional Prescription for a Sharp Brain, Balanced Mood, and Lean, Energized Body
Gut and Psychology Syndrome: Natural Treatment for Autism, Dyspraxia, A.D.D., Dyslexia, A.D.H.D., Depression, Schizophrenia
The Wild Life of Our Bodies: Predators, Parasites, and Partners That Shape Who We Are Today
10 thoughts on “Alzheimer’s: Can We Lower The Incidence?”
I really like the paragraph in here on autism, accepting neurodiversity but also hoping to help those on the spectrum who have biomedical issues. As a mom of a child on the spectrum, with a personal history of hyperparathyroidism (calcium in the blood therefore not being utilized correctly), I find the blood sugar/poor calcium uptake/autism link very interesting.
I really like the paragraph in here on autism, accepting neurodiversity but also hoping to help those on the spectrum who have biomedical issues. As a mom with child on the spectrum and a personal history of hyperparathyroidism (calcium in the blood therefore not being utilized correctly), I find the blood sugar/poor calcium uptake/autism link very interesting.
Not only neurodiversity but an indirect response to the abundance of bacteria. Consider that an autistic has a wider circle of personal space than a neurotypical thus allowing fewer bacteria to ‘infect’ them at any given time. Just remember laura, you heard this theory here first.
Fascinating theory Karen. Nearly every day an idea hits me that makes me wish I had some kind of foundation that could fund independent research.
Speaking of ideas I’d like to research (okay, pay qualified people to research). For several years I’ve been writing articles about honeybees, especially conventional beekeeping practices and agricultural practices that may contribute to colony die-off. One I wrote recently described the effect of neonicotinoid pesticides that are used to treat seeds (90% of corn grown in US is treated) as well as potting soil). This works as a pesticide because it is exuded by the plant, making it toxic to insects (including our bee friends). It causes neurological disruption to such an extent that the honeybee’s highly attuned navigational system can’t even steer the bees back to the hive. As I wrote it made me think about Alzheimer’s patients who I care about, who have lost so much function that they too can’t find their way, and I wondered if tiny doses of pesticides, used more and more commonly over the decades, quietly poisons brains up to a toxic threshold. Even more ominous, the current generation of elders grew up in a time when pretty much all food was organic by default. What about the rest of us? (screaming in my head)
We simply have to work WITH our biology if we are going to survive as a species.
Laura, thanks so much for writing this article. What an incredible source of or resources you’ve provided, too! I can definitely see the link between autism and living a too-hygenic lifestyle and not letting your body develop a healthy immune system when you’re a child. My nephew has mild autism, and he was never allowed to get dirty or be outside in the cold. I’ve been looking to make changes in my eating style, too, because I have issues with chronic inflamation. I know inflamation has been closely linked to cancer, so that worries me.
There’s new research coming out practically every day on chronic inflammation, especially ways it’s linked to diet (blood sugar surges for example) and certain environmental toxins. I think a great deal will be changing in the next decade, probably instigated by concerned people forcing industry and government to finally take note. Well, really, that’s how most change happens…
And here’s this
“…humans exposed to glyphosate have decreased levels of the amino acid tryptophan, which is necessary for active signaling of the neurotransmitter serotonin. Suppressed serotonin levels have been associated with weight gain, depression and Alzheimer’s disease.”
Two links about memory loss and medications, both prescription and over-the-counter.