How Sugar is Linked to Dementia and How to Curb Your Sweet Cravings

Category: Newsletter

Science has yet to discover the definite cause of dementia, but they certainly found out the particular factors that can increase your risk of having the disease. This includes genetics, aging, stress, and smoking. 

But many wonder if diet and certain foods can also expose one to dementia? Well, the chilling answer is Yes. 

According to research, an unhealthy diet makes a senior like you vulnerable to the cognitive impairment brought by dementia. In fact, a well-established study about diet implicates sugar as the major culprit in increasing your risk to develop the disease. 

Here’s why older adults and those living in senior living and memory care should be careful and pace themselves when eating sweets.

Three Reasons Why Eating Sugar May Cause Dementia in Seniors – Consuming too much sugar is bad for your entire body, especially for your brain. Here’s how high sugar levels in the blood can destroy your brain and cause you to develop dementia in the future.

1. Excess Sugar Results in Insulin Resistant Brain Cells - One of the significant threats of eating too much food with added or refined sugar is the increased likelihood of turning the body cells into insulin-resistant ones.

Your body cells and organs need the energy to function normally every day. They get this energy from the food you eat, specifically in the starch and sugars you consume. However, too much sugar in the blood is bad; that’s why your pancreas will produce a hormone called insulin to control the sugar levels in your blood.

The hormone insulin will help your body store the extra sugar inside the muscle cells for later use. However, when the cells become full, they will reject these sugars and protect themselves from them by transforming into insulin-resistant cells.

As a result, your pancreas will keep on producing more insulin because they sense the high sugar level in your blood. So now, you’ll end up with a lot of insulin and sugar in your bloodstream, with defective cells that are insulin resistant. 

Eventually, this excess sugar and insulin will travel into your brain and then drown the cells to death.

2. Too Much Sugar Causes Cognitive Declination – Besides killing the brain cells, too much sugar in the brain can also cause slowed cognitive function and even memory and attention problems for seniors.

Furthermore, it weakens and damages the blood vessels, which again leads to a declining mental capacity. And you know all too well where this destructive road leads-gradual development of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Additionally, weakened blood vessels can cause you to experience ministrokes in the brain, leading to various kinds of dementia.

3. High Blood Sugar Levels May Cause Brain Inflammation – Research published in 2016 found evidence that consuming excess sugar can cause inflammation in the body and brain. 

This happens when there’s too much sugar in the body, forcing some of it to turn into fat. These fats attached to the vital organs of your body will then release inflammatory protein, which leads to inflammation in the body and brain, leading to memory problems.

Healthy foods like fruits and vegetables on left side and unhealthy snacks like donuts and cookies on the right

Five Tips to Reduce Sugar Cravings and Consumption – Fortunately, brain inflammation and slowed cognition caused by excess blood sugar can still be reversed through a proper diet, preferably one with less sugar in it. Here are five tips on how you can reduce sugar in your everyday meals.

1. Avoid Foods with Added Sugars – Stay away from processed foods as they are the ones that contain lots of added sugars but have little to no nutrients. If you can’t go cold turkey, you can gradually reduce your consumption little by little, such as eating a small bar of Snickers twice a week. Other foods that you should only eat in moderation include:

     Candies, cakes, and cookies
     Pastries, pies, cobblers, and donuts
     Ice cream, yogurt, and other dairy desserts

2. Water Over Sugary Drinks – Another major source of unhealthy sugars that seniors in memory care should avoid are drinks containing added sugars. This includes your carbonated soft drinks, energy drinks, juice and sports drinks.

Instead, why don’t you fill up your system with water? Drink at least seven to eight glasses of water daily to flush out the wastes and toxins in your body. You can also incorporate roasted coffee beans, plain tea, and milk into your daily beverage roster.

3. Munch on Fruits – A great and healthy way to satisfy your sweet cravings is to munch on foods with natural sugars in them. This can be fresh, frozen, or canned berries, mangoes, pineapples, cherries, apples, and pears. 

These fruits contain healthy sugar that can curb your sweet tooth and even supply you with essential vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants. Furthermore, these nutrients can keep your brain healthy and ward off neurological diseases like dementia.

You can also try blending fruits, leafy greens, and chia seeds to make a healthy smoothie or shake for breakfast or afternoon snacks.

4. Eat Tasty and Filling Meals – When your body craves for something sweet, more often than not, it’s because of your body’s decreasing energy reservoir. 

When this happens, the best thing to do is eat a healthy and filling meal, specifically foods rich in proteins and healthy fats. Protein-filled foods like lean meat, fatty fish, nuts, and seeds do an excellent job of satisfying one’s hunger healthily.

Moreover, you should make sure to add flavor to your meals by using tasty herbs, spices, and extracts when you cook. This will help enhance the flavor of your meal, thus satisfying your taste buds in the process.

5. Go on Walks – Pair proper diet together with regular exercise to maintain a healthy weight, body, and brain. Staying active can help your body burn through the excess fats, calories and sugars in your blood. This happens because as you work out, your muscles use more energy, thus using more sugar lingering in your bloodstream.

Some senior-friendly aerobic exercises you can try including walking, yoga, tai-chi, swimming, and cycling.

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Updated: August 16, 2017