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Decoding the Sweet Connection: Unravelling the Relationship Between Sugar and Alzheimer’s Disease.

Is Alzheimer's as simple as the presence of too much sugar in the brain? In this article, we are going to discuss just that. Alzheimer’s and other dementia are becoming ever more prevalent in a population with a greater demographic of older people. Cases are expected to reach between 100 to 130 million between 2040 and 2050. (Tatulian, 2022). In this article, we’ll be looking at what Alzheimer’s is, then discuss the role of sugar in the brain along with the impacts of hyperglycaemia, and finally finish with a conclusion including some of the confounding effects and future research.


Alzheimer's is a specific disease that causes dementia; a general term for symptoms of memory loss, and inability to think or make cognitive decisions that detrimentally affecteveryday activities. (Anon., 2019) Alzheimer’s causes dementia through the process of brain atrophy and loss of neural synaptic pathways. Since approximately 70% of dementia cases are caused by Alzheimer's, research in this field is imperative to prevent an epidemic. (Tatulian, 2022)It’s important to note that multiple factors cause Alzheimer'sincluding psychological factors, pre-existing diseases, and lifestyle factors. Some are educational attainment, mental health, heart disease, diabetes, physical activity, and smoking. These are just some of the few risk factors mentioned in (Zhang, 2021) Alzheimer's is primarily due to the deposition of amyloid plaques from amyloid beta proteins, and researchers have shown that an increase in sugar causes proliferation of amyloid plaques. (Neurosicencenews.com, 2023)


The brain has the highest demand for glucose out of all the organs in the human body, consuming half of all glucose in the body. Lack of glucose- hypoglycaemia- can quickly lead to complications that affect brain functions like speech, memory, and higher cognitive thinking. (Edwards, 2016) I found it interesting that long-term type 1 and type 2 diabetes can lead to brain atrophy and a reduction in brain size; symptoms categoric of Alzheimer’s disease. (Edwards, 2016). A 2022 experiment by (Natalia Gomes Gonçalves, et al., 2022) established a link between excess processed food and cognitive decline. They studied three cohorts of diverse participants from 2008-2017 and they found that participants with ultra-processed food consumption above the first quartile had a 28% increase in global cognitive decline and a 25% increase in higher executive function compared to their counterparts within the first quartile. There are many other studies, but this is just one that has established a link between excess sugar and cognitive decline.


Before we end It’s important to remember that there are many risk factors for Alzheimer's and by focusing on just its link with glucose we are being closed off to other avenues, especially at an individual level of treatment. Quite often, a lot of these factors are intertwined, lifestyle factors like smokinghave been shown to be risk factors for heart disease (Malihe Khoramdad, 2019) This is why it’s important to have a holistic approach when discussing the cause of Alzheimer’s and it’s academic research.






 

References

Edwards, S., 2016. Sugar and The Brain. [Online] Available at: https://hms.harvard.edu/news-events/publications-archive/brain/sugar-brain[Accessed 15 February 2024].

Malihe Khoramdad, A. V.-a. L. K. F. R.-B. H. A. A. S., 2019. Association between passive smoking and cardiovascular disease: A systematic review and meta-analysis. IUBMB light.

Natalia Gomes Gonçalves, P. et al., 2022. Association Between Consumption of Ultraprocessed Foods and Cognitive Decline. JAMA Neurology, 80(2), pp. 142-150.

Neurosicencenews.com, 2023. Sweet Trouble: How Sugar Intake Might Increase Alzheimer’s Risk. [Online] Available at: https://neurosciencenews.com/alzheimers-sugar-metabolism-23313/#:~:text=Key%20Facts%3A,beta%20production%20in%20the%20brain.[Accessed 16 february 2024].

Tatulian, S. A., 2022. Challenges and hopes for Alzheimer’s disease. Drug Discovery Today, 27(4).

Zhang, X. T. Y. W. Z. e. a., 2021. The Epidemiology of Alzheimer’s Disease Modifiable Risk Factors and Prevention. The Journal of Prevention of Alzheimer's Disease, Volume 8, pp. 313-321.


 

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