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Obesity and Diabetes Linked to Dementia

A review of the world's scientific literature shows that high-sugar diets can lead to loss of mental function that increases risk for Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia (Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care, July, 2013;16(4):440-5). High sugar diets are a major risk factor for diabetes, which in turn is a risk factor for Alzheimer's disease (Chem Soc Trans, 2005 Nov;33(Pt 5):1041-4).

High-sugar diets prevent your cells from responding to insulin. This is called insulin resistance, which leads to obesity and diabetes. Insulin resistance may also cause Alzheimer's disease (CNS Drugs, 2003;17(1):27-45). Your brain requires both sugar and insulin to function properly. Many recent studies show that insulin is necessary for memory. Brain cells are loaded with insulin receptors, specifically in the medial temporal regions of the brain that are the source of memory. Insulin also regulates the amyloid precursor protein and its derivative beta-amyloid (abeta), that cause the senile plaques, that are diagnostic of Alzheimer's disease. Insulin prevents the breakdown of abeta in Alzheimer plaques (Drugs Today, 2006 Jul;42(7):481-9).

Prevention of Dementia

Accumulating evidence show that everything that treats diabetes and insulin resistance may also help to prevent Alzheimer's disease. Therefore, prevention of dementia should include lifestyle factors to prevent weight gain and diabetes:

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Protect Yourself Against Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is caused by the cumulative life-time exposure to ultraviolet light. The more sunlight that reaches your skin over your lifetime, the more likely you are to develop skin cancer. The most effective protection against the sun's rays is a roof. The second is clothing; sunscreens are a distant third.

Clothing: As a general rule, the thicker the clothing and the tighter the weave, the better the protection. However, when you exercise, thick clothing retains heat and interferes with performance. In hot weather you want the thinnest cloth possible that still provides protection. Contrary to what seems logical, white is not the best color to deflect the sun's rays. The darker the color, the greater the protection. Red, black and blue are the most effective colors in blocking UV-B rays, the ones most likely to cause skin cancers. The darker the shade, the better the protection (Ind. Eng. Chem. Res, 2009;48(22):9817-9822).

Sunscreens: If you don't keep applying sunscreens when you exercise, your sweat can remove the sunscreen and leave unprotected areas. Then the sunscreen can actually increase your risk for skin cancer by reflecting increased amounts of UV rays into areas of unprotected skin. The safest and most effective sunscreens may be the thick, white, greasy ones that contain zinc or titanium. You can see the white coating that protects your skin, so you can reapply them whenever you see a break in the coating.

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Red Meat Associated with Type II Diabetes

A new study of 149,000 U.S. men and women shows that increasing the amount of red meat that you eat can increase your risk for developing type 2 diabetes by 48 percent over four years. Gaining weight increases the risk even more. Reducing red meat consumption by more than a half serving per day was associated with a 14 percent reduced risk (JAMA Intern Med, published online June 17, 2013).

North Americans eat 166 pounds of meat per person per year. Many other studies show that the animal saturated fats, iron, zinc, nitrosamines and other components of red meat are associated with increased risk for diabetes, heart attacks, and cancers.

My recommendation: Replace the red meat in your diet with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, seeds, nuts and seafood.

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This week's medical history:
Florence Nightengale: What Was Her Disease?

For a complete list of my medical history biographies go to Histories and Mysteries

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Recipe of the Week:

Fennel Salad with Clementines

You'll find lots of recipes and helpful tips in The Good Food Book - it's FREE

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June 23rd, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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