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Dr. Mark Hyman: Why Scientists Now Call Alzheimer’s 'Type 3 Diabetes'
“My parents are getting older and I want to do everything I can to help them prevent Alzheimer’s, considering both my grandmothers had this disease and I am worried about getting it too,” writes this week’s house call. “What can we do to prevent dementia?”
The truth is, dementia is a very big problem that’s becoming bigger every day.
Statistics are grim. Ten percent of 65-year-olds, 25 percent of 75-year-olds and 50 percent of 85-year-olds will develop dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. And the fastest growing segment of our population is the 85-year-olds. Researchers predict Alzheimer’s will affect 106 million people by 2050. It’s now the seventh leading cause of death.
Scientists now call Alzheimer’s disease “Type 3 diabetes.” What’s the link between Alzheimer’s and diabetes? Well, new research shows insulin resistance or what I call diabesity (from eating too many carbs and sugar and not enough fat) is one of the major factors that starts the brain-damage cascade, which robs the memory of over half the people in their 80s, leading to a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.
But don’t think too much insulin affects only older folks’ memories. It doesn’t just suddenly occur once you’re older. Dementia actually begins when you’re younger and takes decades to develop and worsen.
Here’s the bad news/good news. Eating sugar and refined carbs can cause pre-dementia and dementia. But cutting out the sugar and refined carbs and adding lots of fat can prevent and even reverse, pre-dementia and early dementia.
More recent studies show people with diabetes have a four-fold risk for developing Alzheimer’s. People with pre-diabetes or metabolic syndrome have an increased risk for having pre-dementia or mild cognitive impairment.
You don’t have to have full blown type 2 diabetes to develop brain damage and memory loss from high insulin levels and insulin resistance.
We all have heard of the mind-body effect. Well, there is also a body-mind effect. So you can impact your brain through your diet and heal your body. In fact, your body and your mind aren’t two separate systems; they’re one elegant, continuous ecosystem. What you do to the body affects the brain and what you do to the brain affects the body. I wrote about this mind-body connection years ago in The UltraMind Solution.
Cognitive decline and memory loss can be prevented and even reversed. We simply have to optimize brain function and then we see miracles. I’ve seen this happen many times in my medical practice.
The underlying causes of Alzheimer’s disease begin with too much sugar on the brain. The cycle starts when we over-consume sugar and don’t eat enough fat, which leads to diabesity. Diabesity leads to inflammation, which creates a vicious cycle that wreaks havoc on your brain.
If you looked at an autopsy of a brain of an Alzheimer’s patient, you’d see a brain on fire. This inflammation occurs over and over again in every chronic disease and very dramatically with the aging brain and overall aging process.
How to Reverse Memory Loss
The good news is you can reverse dementia and cognitive decline. To do that, you must control your insulin and balance your blood sugar levels, which will allow you to overcome diabesity and balance your mood, help your focus, help boost your energy level and prevent all of the age-related brain diseases including Alzheimer’s.
I’ve seen this happen with many patients. One, George, came with his wife to see me because he could no longer manage his business affairs. He had become increasingly less able to function at home and had to withdraw from family and social relationships. George was desperate because he felt himself slipping away.
We found that George had high levels of mercury. We helped him detoxify mercury with foods like kale, watercress and cilantro; herbs like milk thistle; nutrients like selenium and zinc; and medications that helped him overcome his genetic difficulties by ridding toxins like mercury.
We optimized his cholesterol with diet and herbs and we lowered his homocysteine (which comes from folic acid deficiency) with high doses of folate and vitamins B6 and B12. When people have high homocysteine, they have a dramatically higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
After one year of aggressive therapy matched to his genes, unique metabolism, biochemistry and diagnosis, George had a remarkable and dramatic recovery. Before I saw him, George couldn’t manage his business, nor did his grandchildren desire to be around him. After matching his treatment to his genes and optimizing his biology, he was able to function again and his grandchildren loved being with him.
We once thought we could not reverse artery-clogging plaque that triggered heart disease. We now know otherwise. Similarly, dementia can be reversed if caught early enough and by attending to all the factors that affect brain function—including diet, exercise, stress, nutritional deficiencies, toxins, hormonal imbalances and inflammation.
To do this is, in fact, quite simple. The basic principles of Functional Medicine or treating the root cause of disease, help optimize your biological functions. Simply get rid of the bad stuff and put in the good stuff. Your body takes care of the rest. It knows what to do and heals itself.
8 Steps to Reverse Memory Loss
From that perspective, these 8 strategies help many of my patients reverse or prevent dementia.
1. Balance your blood sugar with a whole-foods, low-glycemic diet. You can achieve this by taking out the bad stuff (refined carbs, sugar, alcohol, caffeine, processed foods, dairy and inflammatory, omega-6 rich oils such as vegetable and seed oils) and putting in the good stuff (healthy fats like avocados, walnuts, almonds and cashews, grass-fed meats, pastured chicken and eggs, olive and coconut oil).
3. Exercise daily. Even a 30-minute walk can help. More active readers might want to incorporate high-intensity interval training or weight lifting. Studies show physical activity can prevent and even slow down the progression of cognitive decline and brain diseases like dementia.
4. Supplement wisely. At the very least, take a multi-vitamin and mineral supplement, an omega 3 fat supplement, extra B6, B12 and folate, as well as vitamin D3. And, a good probiotic will enhance the brain-gut relationship.
6. Detox from mercury or other heavy metals, if you have high levels, by doing a medically supervised detox program.
7. Control stress levels. Chronic stress takes a toll on your body and brain. Relaxation isn’t a luxury if you want to prevent or reverse dementia. Whether that involves deep breathing, meditation or yoga, find something that helps you calm down. Many patients find my UltraCalm CD helps them relax and reduce stress and anxiety.
8. Get 8 hours of sleep every night. Studies show poor sleep becomes a risk factor for cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease. Aim for at least 8 hours of quality sleep every night. You can get 19 of my top sleep tips here.
This is just a start, but these eight strategies go a long way by giving your brain a chance to heal, recover and experience fewer memory problems.
Even if you aren’t suffering from cognitive decline, you should take these steps because they can help you prevent the aging of your brain and help you achieve lifelong health.
Be sure to look out for my new book, Eat Fat, Get Thin, where I describe how to prevent and even reverse memory loss using food as medicine. I’ll show you how more of the right fats can boost your brain function and can even help treat dementia.
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A central player in the fight against the novel coronavirus is our immune system. It protects us against the invader and can even be helpful for its therapy. But sometimes it can turn against us.
How does our immune system react to the coronavirus?<p>The coronavirus is — like any other virus — not much more than a shell around genetic material and a few proteins. To replicate, it needs a host in the form of a living cell. Once infected, this cell does what the virus commands it to do: copy information, assemble it, release it.</p><p>But this does not go unnoticed. Within a few minutes, the body's immune defense system intervenes with its innate response: Granulocytes, scavenger cells and killer cells from the blood and lymphatic system stream in to fight the virus. They are supported by numerous plasma proteins that either act as messengers or help to destroy the virus.</p><p>For many viruses and bacteria, this initial activity of the immune system is already sufficient to fight an intruder. It often happens very quickly and efficiently. We often notice only small signs that the system is working: We have a cold, a fever. </p>
Is there an immunity? How long does it last?<p>The good news is that it is very likely there is an immunity. This is suggested by the proximity to other viruses, epidemiological data and animal experiments. Researchers <a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.03.13.990226v1" target="_blank">infected four rhesus monkeys,</a> a species close to humans, with SARS-CoV-2. The monkeys showed symptoms of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, developed neutralizing antibodies and recovered after a few days. When the recovered animals were reinfected with the virus, they no longer developed any symptoms: They were immune. </p><p>The bad news: It is not (yet) known how long the immunity will last. It depends on whether a patient has successfully developed neutralizing antibodies. Achim Hörauf estimates that the immunity should last at least one year. Within this year, every new contact with the virus acts as a kind of booster vaccination, which in turn might prolong the immunity.</p><p>"The virus is so new that nobody has a reasonable immune response," says the immunologist. He believes that lifelong immunity is unlikely. This "privilege" is reserved for viruses that remain in the body for a long time and give our immune system a virtually permanent opportunity to get to know it. Since the coronavirus is an RNA (and not a DNA) virus, it cannot permanently settle in the body, says Hörauf.</p><p>The Heidelberg immunologist <a href="https://www.klinikum.uni-heidelberg.de/immunologie/immunologie" target="_blank">Stefan Meuer</a> predicts that the novel coronavirus will also mutate like all viruses. He assumes that this could be the case in 10 to 15 years: "At some point, the acquired immunity will no longer be of any use to us because then another coronavirus will return, against which the protection that has now been formed will not help us because the virus has changed in such a way that the antibodies are no longer responsible. And then no vaccination will help either."</p>
How can we take advantage of the antibody response of the immune system?<p>Researchers are already collecting plasma from people who have successfully survived an infection with SARS-CoV-2 and are using it to treat a limited number of patients suffering from COVID-19. The underlying principle: <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/coronavirus-drugs-can-antibodies-from-survivors-help/a-52806428" target="_blank">passive immunization.</a> The studies carried out to date have shown positive results, but they have usually been carried out on only a few people.</p><p>At best, passive immunization is used only when the patient's own immune system has already started to work against the virus, says Achim Hörauf: "The longer you can leave the patients alone with the infection before you protect them with passive immunization, the better." Only through active immunization can one be protected in the long term. At the same time, it is difficult to recognize the right point in time.</p><p>PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests are currently used to find out whether a person is infected with the coronavirus. With the help of PCR, it is not possible to tell whether or not there is reproducible viral RNA; it is just a proof of whether the virus is still present, dead or alive. A PCR test cannot tell us whether our immune system has already intervened, i.e. whether we have had contact with the virus in the past, have formed antibodies and are now protected. Researchers are therefore working on tests that check our blood for the presence of antibodies. They are already in use in Singapore, for example, and are nearing completion in the USA. With the help of these tests, it would finally be possible to gain an overview <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/corona-confusion-how-to-make-sense-of-the-numbers-and-terminology/a-52825433" target="_blank">of the unclear case numbers.</a> In addition, people who have developed antibodies against the virus could be used at the forefront of health care, for example. An "immunity passport" is even under discussion.</p>
Is it possible to become infected and/or ill several times with the coronavirus?<p>"According to all we know, it is not possible with the same pathogen," says Achim Hörauf. It is possible to become infected with other coronaviruses or viruses from the SARS or MERS group if their spike proteins look different. "As far as the current epidemic is concerned, it can be assumed that people who have been through COVID-19 will not become ill from it for the time being and will not transmit the virus any further," he says.</p>
How long before you're no longer contagious?<p>A study <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-020-2196-x" target="_blank">carried out on the first coronavirus patients in Germany</a> showed that no viruses that are capable of replication can be found from day eight after the onset of symptoms, even though PCR can still detect up to 100,000 gene copies per sample. This could change the current quarantine recommendations in the future.</p><p>According to the Robert Koch Institute, patients can currently be discharged from hospital if they show two negative PCR samples from the throat within 24 hours. If they have had a severe case of the disease, they should remain in domestic isolation for another two weeks. For each discharge, whether from hospital or home isolation, they should have been symptom-free for at least 48 hours.</p>
Why do people react differently to the virus?<p>While some people get off with a mild cold, others are put on ventilators or even die of SARS-Cov-2. Especially people with <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/coronavirus-who-is-particularly-at-risk-and-why/a-52710881" target="_blank">pre-existing conditions</a> and older people seem to be worst-affected by the virus. Why? This is the hottest question at the moment.</p><p>It will still take a very, very long time to understand the mechanistic, biological basis for why some people are so much more severely affected than others, virologist Angela Rasmussen told <em>The Scientist</em>. "The virus is important, but the host response is at least as important, if not more important," her colleague Stanley Perlman told the magazine.</p><p>Stefan Meuer sees a fundamental survival principle of nature in the different equipment and activity of our immune systems: "If we were all the same, one and the same virus could wipe out the entire human species at once. Due to the genetic range, it is quite normal that some people die from a viral disease while others do not even notice it. "</p><p>Achim Hörauf also suspects immunological variants that could be genetically determined. Since interstitial pneumonia is observed with the coronavirus, the focus is probably on an overreaction of the immune system. However, it is also possible that each person affected may have been loaded with a different dose of the virus, which in turn leads to different outcomes. And finally, it makes a difference how robust the body and lungs are: Competitive athletes simply have more lung volume than long-time smokers. </p>
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