Alzheimer’s & Glucose: Reducing Sugar Intake

While scientists have long known that excess glucose—or sugar—and its breakdown products have the potential to damage proteins and cells through a reaction called ‘glycation,’ the specific molecular link between sugar and Alzheimer’s disease was neither confirmed nor fully understood.

Yet scientists have recently confirmed a ‘tipping point’ molecular link between the blood sugar glucose and Alzheimer’s disease, as a study published in the journal Scientific Reports has demonstrated that excess glucose irreparably damages a critical enzyme is involved with inflammation response to the early stages ofAlzheimer’s.

Unusually high blood sugar levels, also called hyperglycemia, is a familiar characteristic of diabetes and obesity; indeed, patients with diabetes have been shown to have an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease compared to healthy individuals. In the early stages of the disease, abnormal proteins aggregate to form ‘plaques and tangles’ in the brain, which progressively lead to severe cognitive decline.

By utilizing a sensitive technique to detect glycation through brain samples of people both with and without Alzheimer’s, a team of scientists discovered that—in the early stages of Alzheimer’s—glycation damages an enzyme called MIF (macropage migration inhibitory factor), which ultimately plays a role in immune response and insulin regulation. This enzyme is involved in the response of brain cells to the build-up of abnormal proteins in the brain during Alzheimer’s, and researchers believe that inhibition and reduction of MIF activity—caused by glycation—could be the proverbial ‘tipping point’ in disease progression. As Alzheimer’s disease progresses, so too does glycation of these enzymes increase.

Researchers articulate that this knowledge will be vital in developing a chronological trajectory of the progression of Alzheimer’s, and will assist in identifying those at risk, in addition to new preventive techniques and treatments. Moreover, this potential link with Alzheimer’s serves as another reason to curb and lower sugar intake.

Mark Rosenberg, MD, FMNM, a physician who has extensively studied the mechanisms of cancer treatment failure, and developed new preventive therapies, states: “Glucose or sugar, is a source of fuel for normal cells and malignant cells. The more resistant and aggressive cancer cells tend to rely on the metabolism of glucose through a process called glycolysis. These cells over-express GLUT-1 transporters, as well as insulin, to pull in as much sugar, as quickly as they can, so they can meet their energy requirements. There are multiple studies correlating elevated blood sugar, insulin resistance, and diabetes with the risk, as well as survival, for many cancers. Bottom line, from a cancer perspective: minimize sugar intake.”

Around 50 million people across the globe have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, a statistical figure predicted to rise to more than 125 million by2050. Researchers believe that the global cost of the disease will likely escalate into the hundreds of billions of dollars, as medical patients require further social and palliative care, due to the debilitating cognitive effects of the disease.