As more and more Americans ingest processed and junk foods, the aging population and even the young are developing diseases that lead to chronic illnesses such as heart disease, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and diabetes; and all can lead to the development of Alzheimer’s Disease and/or dementia. Alzheimer’s.org estimates that over five million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s and “every 67 seconds another person in the U.S. develops the disease” (Golden, 20012-2015). It is the sixth leading cause of death in this country with about 500,000 people losing their lives to Alzheimer’s annually. About one of every three senior citizens die from the disease or some type of dementia and about two thirds of those affected are women (Golden, 20012-2015).
There are conditions that create a higher risk for cardiovascular disease including, but not limited to, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes; and, as noted above, those same illnesses increase the risk of being affected by Alzheimer’s or some form of dementia. Autopsies performed by researchers indicate that a startling 80 percent of those with Alzheimer’s also had cardiovascular disease (Golden, 20012-2015). Cardiovascular disease can cause a variety of heart or blood vessel complications that usually indicates damage to heart or blood vessels. This damage is caused by a buildup in fat-based plaque in the arteries, or atherosclerosis. When this occurs, the artery walls become stiffer and thicker which makes it harder for blood to move through those vessels and get to the body’s tissues and organs. Fortunately, it can be corrected and reversed via a healthy diet and exercise. This means that correcting and reversing heart disease could also stop the progression of Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Researchers have also linked the occurrence of Alzheimer’s to chronic illnesses and diseases. According to Kristine Yaffe, Professor of Psychiatry, Neurology and Epidemiology at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), “There is a growing body of evidence showing that other chronic diseases like heart disease, stroke and diabetes, as well as risk factors including depression, obesity and sleep, are associated with cognitive decline. If left unchecked, these chronic diseases can increase a person’s risk of developing dementia” (fightdementia.org, 2013). However, when brain health is maximized, the body has healthy blood sugar and cholesterol levels as well as healthy blood pressure and body weight which helps lower the risk of incurring devastating chronic diseases including all forms of dementia (fightdementia.org, 2013).
Since Alzheimer’s disease causes loss of brain cells in certain areas of the brain, some deterioration may be linked to neurotransmitters which are the messengers for the brain’s nerve cells. Those with Alzheimer’s or dementia, have areas of the brain that have faulty or sick neurotransmitters which some believe are caused by two abnormal issues affecting the brain: amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles (WebMd, 2014). “Amyloid plaques are clumps of a protein called beta amyloid. This plaque builds up around the cells in the brain that [should] communicate with each other” (WebMd, 2014). Neurofibrillary tangles are made from a protein called tau which also helps brain cells communicate (WebMd, 2014). Those with Alzheimer’s disease have tangling and twists of the tau protein, and when those tangles clump together they interfere with communication in the brain (WebMd, 2014). Brain cells shrink when they die which leads to memory, intelligence, language, behavior, and judgement issues (WebMd, 2014). The bottom line is that those who do not have Alzheimer’s or dementia do not have those plaques and tangles in their brains but those with the disease do have them.
According to Accredited Practicing Dieticican Domenic Commisso (2012), “The link between diet and dementia became evident to researchers in the late 1990’s.” Scientists who led population-based studies noted that the “consistent intake of various foods were associated with better brain function than other foods” (Commisso, 2012). Food nutrients that are consumed affect the architecture of the brain as well as brain function. This led to a “recognized interconnection between chronic diseases and dementia, in particular diet and lifestyle related chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes and vascular diseases which includes high blood pressure and stroke” (Commisso, 2012).
A study published in the journal PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences), revealed how researchers spent nine months studying more than 90 older adults to assess how their mental abilities were affected by the amount of advanced glycation end-products (AGEs) in their bodies. The results also showed there is a link between AGEs and developing dementia in later life (Radcliffe, 2014). Those who consumed diets high in advanced glycation end-products had high levels of them in their blood serum; and it was those individuals who developed changes in cognition with defenses against such changes being suppressed (Radcliffe, 2014). Advanced glycation end-products in the blood and body tissues inhibit an enzyme that controls many body functions “including those related to the brain, immune system, and hormones. This enzyme—called SIRT1—is also low in people with brain or metabolic diseases, such as aging-related dementia and diabetes (Radcliffe, 2014).
Unlike many substances that harm the body, AGEs form naturally from the reaction of sugars with protein, fat, or nucleic acids” (Radcliffe, 2014). A high advanced glycation end-products level leads to inflammation because it damages both cells and nucleic acids, which leads to prediabetes, cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, and neurological disease (Radcliffe, 2014).
The traditional Western diet, filled with meats and foods containing high amounts of sugar and fats, is high in advanced glycation end-products, and cooking increases the amount in the foods. Although research is still ongoing, advanced glycation end-products in the diet have also been linked to chronic conditions such as metabolic syndrome and dementia (Radcliffe, 2014). A plant-based diet is the optimal diet to reduce such chemical disasters in the body. By reducing the amount of advanced glycation end-products, simple sugars, and consuming only foods that contain complex carbohydrates and a host of nutrients, those with chronic illnesses can reverse many of those conditions brought on specifically by the consumption of foods that provide little or no nutrition. For those with Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia, the changes could be startling. It is only by attempting to reverse those diseases, which has been done with several Back To Health Institute seniors, that the results of a plantarian diet will be documented as the way to prevent or reverse such conditions.
Commisso, D. (2012). The Link Between Nutrition and Dementia.Retrieved from http://daa.asn.au/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/The-Link-Between-Nutrition-and-Dementia.pdf
Fightdementia.org. (2013). Dangerous Links Between Chronic Diseases And Dementia. Retrieved from https://fightdementia.org.au/news/dangerous-links-between-chronic-diseases-and-dementia
Golden, C. (2012-2015). Is Alzheimer’s Disease Cardiovascular Disease?Retrieved from http://www.carlagoldenwellness.com/2015/03/02/is-alzheimers-disease-cardiovascular-disease/
Radcliffe, S. (2014). A compound that occurs naturally in food, and is increased by cooking, may contribute to chronic diseases like diabetes and dementia. Retrieved from
WebMd. (2014). Alzheimer’s Disease – Cause: Alzheimer’s Disease Guide.Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/alzheimers/tc/alzheimers-disease-cause