We know too much sugar is bad for our waistline. Now a new study from Mayo Clinic and reported in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease has shown that the people over 70 who ate the most carbohydrates relative to protein and fat approached being 4 times greater risk of developing mild cognitive impairment, which is a precursor to Alzheimer’s Disease. The risk also rose with the absolute amount of sugar consumed – ie, the more sugar the higher the risk.
The good news was that people in the study who ate more protein and fat relative to carbs were less likely to become cognitively impaired. This study makes it even more clear why a balanced diet is so important.
This study followed 1,230 people between the ages of 70 and 89 who provided their dietary intake during the prior year. Their cognition was evaluated by an expert initially. There were 940 people who had no cognitive impairment at the beginning of the study and those were asked to return for follow-up exams.
Beginning nearly 4 years after the study began, 200 or the 940 began showing signs of cognitive impairment such as memory loss, language, thinking or judgement.
The ones who said they ate the most carbohydrates at the beginning of the study were 1.9 times more likely to develop mild cognitive impairment than the people who said they ate the least amount of carbs. Those who reported the most sugar intake (as opposed to sugar plus carbs) were 1.5 times likelier to develop mild problems of cognition.
But if you compared the ones who ate the most fat and compared them to the ones who ate the lowest amount of fat, they were 42% less likely to demonstrate difficulty with cognition. Those who reported the highest protein intake had a similar protective outcome (21% less likely to have their cognition reduced).
When the researchers combined total fat and protein intake, those who consumed the most carbohydrates were 3.6 times more likely to have mild cognitive impairment over the four years of the study.
Unfortunately, the study didn’t break down the carbohydrate intake by type so all the details aren’t known. But the researchers believe that complex carbohydrates that are low in fiber such as pasta, white bread and refined-grain products cause blood sugar levels to rise up suddenly and that might cause the brain to have difficulty utilizing sugar properly – somewhat like type 2 diabetes.
They also believe that whole grains and brown rice, barley and oats retain fiber and other nutrients because they aren’t removed during processing. That allows the blood sugar levels to rise slower and the brain to utilize the sugar more in line with its needs.
Alzheimer’s Disease affects 5.2 million adults and these numbers are expected to triple by 2050 as the Baby Boomers age. This is one more proof that we have a lot of control over our health and our mental health including Alzheimer’s Disease. And that is something sweet that’s good to remember.
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