To protect our brain and fight Alzheimer's it is important to act now, trying to reduce the glycemic load of what we eat. Hence, less refined carbohydrates, sugars and sweets. This emerges from a very recent scientific research published in the Nutrients journal thanks to the work of a French team from the Universities of Montpellier and Bordeaux (Gentreau et al, Nutrients, 2022).
Alzheimer's, what it is and its triggering causes
Alzheimer's is a degenerative disease characterized by the simultaneous presence of neuroinflammation and accumulations of beta amyloid plaques. At present, treatments do not lead to recovery, hence the importance of finding strategies to prevent or delay Alzheimer's onset. More and more studies indicate that we can do a lot in this regard. In fact, the diet is a valid and powerful candidate to help counter this degenerative disease. It seems that a diet high in refined carbohydrates and saturated fats can play a role in increasing the accumulation of beta amyloid plaques and igniting inflammation. However, to date, there was no real study performed on a large sample of people to evaluate the effect of a diet too rich in refined carbohydrates, and therefore refined bread, pasta and rice, but also sweets and white sugar.
The damage of a high glycemic load diet
Therefore, to try to understand the role of diet in the onset or worsening of Alzheimer's, the researchers developed the study we are talking about today. The scientists drew on data collected from a large study that began in 1999 in the cities of Bordeaux, Dijon and Montpellier on citizens over 65 years of age. Among all the volunteers, 377 adults, of whom information on diet and dosage of beta amyloid proteins in the blood was available, were selected. Comparing these data, what emerged is that a diet with a high glycemic load, that is, particularly rich in refined carbohydrates, is associated with a worsening of Alzheimer's indicators. In particular, in those who followed a diet with a high glycemic load, the values of beta amyloid protein 42 and of the ratio between beta amyloid proteins 42 and 40 were reduced in the blood. In fact, beta amyloid proteins are divided into two types, beta amyloid 42 and beta amyloid 40, based on the number of amino acids of which they are composed, 42 or 40 precisely, and the level of toxicity, with type 42 considered the most toxic. Therefore, observing a reduction in the values of circulating beta amyloid proteins 42 means finding a greater amount of these proteins accumulated in the brain, with a higher risk of developing Alzheimer's.
The study shows that the diet can modulate the markers of Alzheimer's, increasing them when it is unbalanced and too rich in refined carbohydrates. Since any changes in Alzheimer's indicators can be observed years before symptoms appear, research results suggest that starting now eating a varied and healthy diet, including fruits, vegetables, legumes and unrefined carbohydrates, may be a valid ally in the fight against Alzheimer's. Much work remains to be done, in fact, the measurements of beta amyloid proteins were performed at the beginning of 2000, now the instrumentation is certainly more efficient. In addition, other factors such as cholesterol and systemic inflammation that could influence both the values of circulating beta amyloid proteins and the actual risk of developing Alzheimer's have not been evaluated. In fact, we can now count on recent discoveries that have observed that, for Alzheimer's to develop, accumulations of beta amyloid proteins are not enough, but also neuroinflammation. In any case, waiting for science to clarify, a good choice would certainly be to limit refined carbohydrates as much as possible, which are also pro-inflammatory, and prefer whole-grain products and lots of vegetables, seeds and fruit, even nuts, rich in fiber, which helps reduce the absorption of sugars.