On my homepage blog, I discussed the role of stress on the brain, specifically in those who are caregiving for their elderly parents as well as their children. One of the best things you can do for your brain is to feed it well and avoid blood sugar surges. This means a whole food, preferably organic (to avoid chemicals), diet with plenty of vegetables and low glycemic fruits. Blood sugar is a big deal in brain health, especially when your brain becomes insensitive to it due to resistance in the hormone, insulin.
As early as 2005, the National Review of Medicine asked the question, “Is Alzheimer’s really just type III diabetes?”11 According to an article in Time:
A neuropathologist named Alois Alzheimer noticed, over a century ago, that an odd form of protein was taking the place of normal brain cells. How those beta amyloid plaques (as they’re called) get there has been a mystery. What’s becoming clear, however, is that a lack of insulin — or insulin resistance — not only impairs cognition but seems to be implicated in the formation of those plaques.12
More recently, a new study also reported a connection between blood sugar and brain health connecting Type 2 diabetes (T2DM) and risk of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). According to Health Day:
People with type 2 diabetes may be more prone to developing the brain “tangles” associated with Alzheimer’s disease, a new study suggests. The study found that people with type 2 diabetes had a greater accumulation of brain tangles — even if they were free of dementia or milder problems with memory and thinking. 13
One review provided explanations of the “Type 3 diabetes” link when they reported on several mechanisms connecting poor insulin signaling in the brain and concluded, “the term “type 3 diabetes” accurately reflects the fact that AD represents a form of diabetes that selectively involves the brain and has molecular and biochemical features that overlap with both type 1 diabetes mellitus and T2DM.”
It’s important to remember that, although eating a diet high in processed sugars and simple carbs can cause insulin resistance, other factors can as well. These include toxic exposure, hormonal
imbalances, stress, medications, not enough healthy fats and cholesterol, and microbiome health. Therefore, the optimal diet is what’s best in balancing all factors involved. Some may do better with more of a Paleo diet; whereas, others may do better with a higher healthy carbohydrate diet and healthy fats.
Supplementing Brain Health
Diet and lifestyle are keys for optimizing brain health. Furthermore, supplemental support has also been shown to be helpful. In fact, using a combination of many different strategies can be effective for prevention, or in one study, assist with reversal!
Fruity and Fabulous
A recent study reported on how supplementing with resveratrol in those with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease modulated a biomarker that declines as the disease progresses. The researchers used a highly purified form of resveratrol, more than could be consumed in foods such as red grapes, raspberries, dark chocolate, and some red wines. Georgetown University Medical Center reported:
“A decrease in Abeta40 is seen as dementia worsens and Alzheimer’s disease progresses; still, we can’t conclude from this study that the effects of resveratrol treatment are beneficial,” Turner explains. “It does appear that resveratrol was able to penetrate the blood brain barrier, which is an important observation. Resveratrol was measured in both blood and cerebrospinal fluid.”16
Previous research has also supported the intake of resveratrol and berries for brain health.
Melatonin & Cognitive Function
A cross-sectional study with 1,105 community-dwelling elderly individuals was implemented to determine if there was an association between melatonin and cognitive health. Researchers analyzed urinary 6-sulfatoxymelatonin excretion (UME), Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE; n = 935), Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS; n = 1097) to determine levels of melatonin, cognitive function, and depressive symptoms.
The researchers concluded, “Significant associations of higher physiological melatonin levels with lower prevalence of cognitive impairment and depressed mood were revealed in a large general elderly population.” This was independent of depressive symptoms.”
Fish oil has been shown to have many benefits for brain health. WebMD reports:
Consuming more omega-3 fatty acids — found in many types of fish — may benefit people at risk for Alzheimer’s disease, a new study suggests. Researchers looked at 40 mentally healthy adults, aged 65 to 75, who had the gene variant APOE e4, which put them at risk for late-onset Alzheimer’s.
Those who consumed higher amounts of two omega-3 fatty acids found in fish — DHA and EPA — did better on tests that assessed their ability to switch between mental tasks — called cognitive flexibility. They also had a larger anterior cingulate cortex, a part of the brain involved in mental flexibility, the
The findings suggest — but do not prove — that consuming DHA and EPA omega-3 fatty acids might improve mental flexibility by boosting the size of the anterior cingulate cortex, said the authors of the study published online May 21 in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience.
The Golden (& Other) Spice(s)
Green Med Info has several articles and research references on the role of curcumin, as well as other spices, in supporting brain health. Curcumin has been shown to be:
Anti-inflammatory: Curcumin has been found to play a protective role against β-amyloid protein associated inflammation.
Anti-oxidative: Curcumin may reduce damage via antioxidant properties.
Anti-cytotoxic: Curcumin appears to protect against the cell-damaging effects of β-amyloid proteins. 
Anti-amyloidogenic: Turmeric contains a variety of compounds (curcumin, tetrahydrocurcumin, demethoxycurcumin and bisdemethoxycurcumin) which may strike to the root pathological cause of Alzheimer’s disease by preventing β-amyloid protein formation.   
A Comprehensive Approach Is Key
It is usually more than one factor that is involved in mitigating risk for dementia; therefore, a comprehensive approach is most effective. This is the approach of naturopathic and functional medicine, where the cause verses the symptom is being addressed.
In a case review of 10 patients, authors used a combination of various factors and concluded that, “Results from the 10 patients reported here suggest that memory loss in patients with subjective cognitive impairment, mild cognitive impairment, and at least the early phase of Alzheimer’s disease, may be reversed, and improvement sustained, with the therapeutic program described here. This is the first such demonstration. However, at the current time the results are anecdotal, and therefore a more extensive, controlled clinical trial is warranted.”
If you take good care of your brain, your body will be healthy as well, and vice versa. That’s the good news!
Bittman M. Is Alzheimer’s Type 3 Diabetes? Time. September 12, 2012.
Norton A. Type 2 Diabetes Linked to More Alzheimer’s Brain ‘Tangles. Health Day. Sepetember 2, 2015. http://consumer.healthday.com/cognitive-health-information-26/alzheimer-s-news-20/type-2-diabetes-tied-to-alzheimer-s-brain-tangles-702934.html
Roberts RO, Roberts LA, Geda YE, et al. Relative Intake of Macronutrients Impacts Risk of Mild Cognitive Impairment or dementia. Journal of Alzheimer’s disease : JAD. 2012;32(2):329-339. doi:10.3233/JAD-2012-120862.
De la Monte SM, Wands JR. Alzheimer’s Disease Is Type 3 Diabetes-Evidence Reviewed. Journal of diabetes science and technology (Online). 2008;2(6):1101-1113.
Teber K.Resveratrol Impacts Alzheimer’s Disease Biomarker. Georgetown University Medical Center. September 11, 2015. http://gumc.georgetown.edu/news/Resveratrol-Impacts-Alzheimers-Disease-Biomarker
Physiological Levels of Melatonin Relate to Cognitive Function and Depressive Symptoms: The HEIJO-KYO Cohort. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2015 Aug;100(8):3090-6. doi: 10.1210/jc.2015-1859. Epub 2015 Jun 8.
Preidt R. Fish Oil and Better Brain Function in Older Adults. WebMD. Health Day. May 22, 2015. http://www.webmd.com/alzheimers/news/20150522/fish-oil-tied-to-better-brain-function-in-older-adults
Weatherby C. Omega-3 Fish Oil Aided Alzheimer’s Patients. Vital Choice Newsletter. November 21, 2013.
Bredesen DE. Reversal of cognitive decline: A novel therapeutic program. Aging. September 27, 2014. http://www.impactaging.com/papers/v6/n9/full/100690.html#bibl_43
Dyer O. Is Alzheimer’s really just type III diabetes? December 5, 2005. National Review of Medicine. http://www.nationalreviewofmedicine.com/issue/2005/12_15/2_advances_medicine01_21.html
Ji S. Turmeric Produces ‘Remarkable’ Recovery in Alzheimer’s Patients. Green Med Info. June 10, 2013.