[First, as a quick update, the seemingly endless long vacation season has pretty much ended for me, with only a few more far shorter weekend trips over the next couple of months. So, I’ve spent the day trying to get control of enormous piles of messes, and I’ve incorporated OmniFocus to help with the task. One of the totally out-of-hand messes is all the unanswered emails from readers, many of them pointing me to important and valuable information. So, thanks for that, I’m sorry if I didn’t acknowledge you personally, but the reality is that I may need to just move on and work on getting back to far more substantive posting. I will try to do better with emails moving forward]
I first picked up the scent of the sugar-Alzheimer’s connection last year, April 2008, when I came across this study.
Acquired disturbances of several aspects of cellular metabolism appear pathologically important in sporadic Alzheimer’s disease (SAD). Among these, brain glucose utilization is reduced in the early stages of the disease. Hyperinsulinemia, which is a characteristic finding of insulin resistance, results in a central insulin deficit. Insufficient insulin signaling impairs the intricate balance of nitric oxide regulation of the central nervous system. Reduction in central insulin decreases neuronal nitric oxide synthase and increases inducible synthase activity. This, in turn, decreases astrocytic energy substrates and antioxidant supply of neurons. In addition, an increase in peroxynitrite formation impairs redox balance. Hyperleptinemia and glucose excess, which are the other parameters of insulin resistance, may worsen the reduced astrocytic energy supply and the ongoing inflammation via the inhibition of AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK). Consequently, energy deficit and inflammation in neuronal tissue may cause neurodegeneration of SAD.
So, too much sugar (including things that reduce to sugar, i.e., grain products), too much insulin, resulting in insulin resistance, and you may get "diabetes of the brain," now sometimes referred to as Type III Diabetes.
Now what’s interesting is that ketogenic diets have been used for a long, long time (1920s) for epilepsy, and if not mistaken, recently for other neurological disorders as well. Well, another word for "ketogenic diet" is low-carb, paleo, etc.
But, there’s another way to produce ketones than going ultra-low carb and producing them as the by-product of your own fat metabolism. You can just eat a lot of saturated fat, and one of the richest source of saturated fat is coconut oil.
Certain saturated fats, called medium chain triglycerides (MCTs), go straight to the liver — long chain fats go through the lymphatic system — and are metabolized right away, creating lots of ketone bodies in a short time. So, eating lots of coconut oil (about 65% MCTs) essentially does the same thing in producing ketones as does a very low-carb diet.
Now let’s connect more dots. Here’s a reasonably substantial post I did last November on Alzheimer’s and ketogenic therapy. If you read that, you may complain that this post is mostly review, and you’d be right. But there’s an update to it, as well.
One of the things I highlighted in that post was the story of Dr. Mary Newport, whose husband developed Alzheimer’s. As an MD herself, she was able to dig around enough looking for possible drug therapies, as well as clinical trials they could apply to. Problem was, nothing approached seeing improvement, only a slowing of progression.
Here’s part of the story in print. For the rest of the story, it’s Jimmy Moore to the rescue, and his interview with Dr. Newport who tells the entire story. At the point when she began administering coconut oil (she explains dose levels in the interview) her husband Steve — an accountant — could not even recall what day of the week it was, what season it was, or many mundane details. But far from just slowing progression of the disease, she reversed a large part of it.
Coming full circle, these are just the sorts of stories I like best because it affirms a principle. Let’s call it The Animal Principle: Wild animals don’t typically and systematically suffer from our range of diseases of civilization because they eat and behave in accordance with their natures.
First of all, if we ate and behaved in accordance with our natures, there would likely be no diabetes to speak of (not even T1), no obesity, little cancer, Alzheimer’s, heart disease, stroke, etc., as has been observed and documented in dozens of traditional hunter-gatherer and non-industrial societies for a couple of centuries. Simply eliminate sugar and grains and you’re 90% there.
But I find it highly interesting that after hundreds of millions spent on this needless disease, it looks to be turning out that the prevention — or curative element when the foregoing advice to drop the sugar and grains isn’t heeded — is something that is not only plentiful in most natural diets, but something that has been maligned as no other nutrient for about the last 40 years.
Most funny of all is that everyone’s afraid to say "a class of saturated fats." Nope, "medium chain triglycerides."
Update: A commenter has indicated that there’s a 6-part interview up on YouTube. You can access part one here.