By Dr. Marc Bubbs, ND
A few months ago, a ground breaking new study was released in one of the most prestigious medical journals in the world, highlighting a potential cure for one of the most debilitating diseases in the world. Interestingly, although tremendously significant in its scientific findings, it did not make the front page of the newspaper or headlines on TV. What are we talking about? The health of the brain as it relates to the food you are eating.
Did you know that cognitive decline could start affecting all of use from the age of 40 onwards and that by the age of 60 one in eight can have significant cognitive decline. Shockingly, by the age of 80 one in two people will suffer from Alzheimer’s disease or some form of dementia. Currently, conventional medicine says there is no cure for this disease. The latest research suggests there may be a lot you can do to keep your brain vital and healthy.
The aforementioned study in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine was examining the connection between blood sugar levels and the rate of cognitive decline. The study examined over 2,000 people, whose average age was 76 years old, and researchers took more than 35,000 different clinical laboratory measures. Their findings were very compelling. The authors discovered that individuals with the highest average blood sugar levels (as measure by hemoglobin A1c (HA1c), a three-month average of blood sugar levels) had the greatest decline in cognitive health. In fact, those with the highest levels were almost seven times more likely to develop dementia as the age! This is a truly ground breaking finding.
However, there is an even more interesting twist to these results. You would expect that those individuals with elevated blood sugars must have been diabetic or pre-diabetic, meaning there results were outside the normal ranges found on lab test results? Not so. In this study, individuals who were almost seven times more likely to develop dementia typically had high blood sugars within the normal range listed on the lab report (high end of normal). Therefore, the logical question seems to be… should we not revisit the current medical definition of ‘normal’ blood sugars? How can you be in the ‘normal range’ and still be at such an increased risk of cognitive decline? Unfortunately, many of the lab report normal ranges can be quite generous and new research is being done to try and tackle this problem.
However, the good news is that you can influence your risk of cognitive decline. If you keep your blood sugar levels within optimal ranges you can keep your brain vibrant and healthy throughout your life. How can you do this? The answer is quite simple… diet and exercise. Start by increasing your dietary intake protein and healthy fats intake, while lowering your complex carbohydrates. Aim for a ‘fist’ size of protein at each meal and ‘two thumbs’ size of healthy fats, such as; coconut oil, avocadoes, olive-oil (extra-virgin), or fish oils. Cut out the starchy carbs like bread, pasta, and cereals and replace them with cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, and asparagus. Next, get 30 minutes of walking in daily. Try adding a ‘Fit-Bit’ to your daily regime and see if you can achieve 10,000 steps per day. If you already exercise, add 1-2 weight training sessions in per week, as this is a quick and efficient way to normalize blood sugar.
The solution is simple; yet the effects are profound. Be pro-active and preventative about your health. Inquire with your naturopath or local doctor about specific testing that can measure your short-term and long-term blood sugar levels. Getting baseline measurements is a great first step to taking your health into your own hands. Live long and live happy, keep your blood sugars in check to keep your brain finely tuned, your energy levels up, and your overall health in top gear!
Dr. Marc Bubbs N.D. has been working with athletes and active people for almost a decade. As a Naturopathic Doctor and Strength and Conditioning Coach, Marc focuses on the integration of health and exercise, believing that movement is the best medicine. He focuses on a holistic approach, using a combination of traditional Eastern and cutting-edge Western medicine to meet his client’s health and performance goals. Marc spent several years working in London, England as a personal trainer and strength coach for business executives and competitive athletes. He currently works as a sports medical consultant at Laylor Performance Systems and Canada Basketball.
1) Crane, P. et al. Glucose Levels and Risk of Dementia. N Engl J Med 2013; 369:540-548