Alzheimer’s a Metabolic Disease?
In this section we will look at some of the more devastating effects, of the over-indulgence with over-processed carbohydrates, such as refined white flour and particularly sugar, with the link with cancer and Alzheimer’s disease, and such ailments as chronic fatigue syndrome.
In the previous section, we discussed how obesity was linked with dementia and cognitive decline. Tests on the general population revealed that 22 percent of the population in western countries exhibit signs of cognitive decline by age seventy. This is a serious problem, with the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease in particular, making a huge impact on our society.
According to Alzheimer’s Research UK, there are 209,600 new cases of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) in the UK every year, occurring at a rate of one new case every three seconds. Of those that suffer from this debilitating disease, women have a higher incidence than men; women over 60, for example, are twice as likely to develop dementia as breast cancer. Alzheimer’s Research UK predict 24% of men and 35% of women born in 2015 will go on to develop dementia in their lifetime.
This disease is, of course, prevalent throughout the world, wherever the westernised dietary prevalence for highly refined carbohydrates, and particularly sugar prevail. Another report, this time, on the global reach of dementia, informs us that the prevalence of dementia worldwide affects 46 million people and is expected to increase to more than 130 million by 2050. Aside from the immense human cost—that those who live with sufferers and those afflicted know of only too well—there is also an immense financial cost associated with it. In the same report, by Alzheimer’s Disease International, we are informed that today, the total estimated worldwide cost of dementia is US $818 billion, and it is believed will become a trillion dollar disease by 2018. To give some perspective to this immense problem the report suggests: ‘This means that if dementia care were a country, it would be the world’s 18th largest economy, more than the market values of companies such as Apple (US$ 742 billion), Google (US$ 368 billion) and Exxon (US$ 357 billion).’ 
Alzheimer’s the New Diabetes Type III?
Our understanding of the cause of Alzheimer’s disease has advanced considerably, according to Amy Berger, a nutritionist and author of The Alzheimer’s Antidote, she believes ‘the research is unambiguous, that AD results primarily from a failure of parts of the brain to harness sufficient energy from glucose.’ She further suggests that as a result of this insufficiency of fuel, that neurons in the affected brain regions degrade and degenerate, leading to a loss of communication among them. We know that this breakdown leads to the characteristic symptoms of confusion, memory loss and numerous behavioural changes that we associate with AD sufferers. She makes the further point that we are more commonly hearing these days: ‘The connection between glucose handling, insulin signalling, and AD is so strong that many researchers now refer to AD as “diabetes of the brain,” or “type 3 diabetes.” 
Dr Suzanne de la Monte, Professor of Neuropathology, Neurology, and Neurosurgery at the Rhode Island Hospital and the Alpert Medical School of Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, is currently directing research on the role of insulin resistance as a mediator of neurodegeneration in relation to Alzheimer’s disease, alcoholism, obesity, diabetes, and development. She was one of the people whose research led to the provocative concept that Alzheimer’s is “Type 3 Diabetes”. She suggests ‘Growing evidence supports the concept that AD is a metabolic disease mediated by impairments in brain insulin responsiveness, glucose utilization, and energy metabolism, which lead to increased oxidative stress, inflammation, and worsening of insulin resistance.’ As regards to the reference to ‘Type 3 Diabetes’ she explains: ‘Because the fundamental abnormalities in AD represent effects of brain insulin resistance and deficiency, and the molecular and biochemical consequences overlap with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, we suggest the term ‘Type 3 diabetes’ to account for the underlying abnormalities associated with AD-type neurodegeneration.’ 
We made a brief mention of Metabolic Syndrome in the fourth article of this series that deserves revisiting. This is the situation that is associated with what is referred as insulin resistance, where by the body’s response to processed carbohydrates provokes an insulin response that fails to sufficiently control the levels of glucose which can conversely allow excess levels of glucose to rise in the blood (which can lead to the glycation of proteins) but also lead to insufficient levels in the brain leading to insufficient fuel to maintain normal cognitive functioning. Metabolic syndrome is also associated with hypertension, elevated triglycerides, and low HDL, as well as the high glucose and elevated insulin levels—all directly influenced by over-processed carbohydrates and especially sugar intake. Professor de la Monte explains there has been a stream of human and experimental studies that has provided convincing evidence that AD is a metabolic disease whereby the brain loses its capacity to efficiently utilize glucose for energy production and respond to critical trophic factor signals due to insulin as well as insulin-like growth factor (IGF) resistance. Due to the over reliance on high carb diets prevalent in western societies, glucose from over-refined carbohydrate sources is, for the most part, the only energy source offered to the brain in some people’s diets. Professor de la Monte emphasizes the issue here: Since glucose is the primary fuel for the brain, deficits in glucose uptake and utilization cause the brain to “starve”. With the starvation comes oxidative stress, impairments in homeostasis, and increased cell death.
Oxidative stress can lead to a breakdown in the ATP production due to compromised mitochondrial function (this is the energy creation process in the cell) and can lead to the production of Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) which are highly reactive oxidising agents that can wreak havoc in the cell and damage many cellular processes.
Alzheimer’s and Energy Starvation
One of the problems with Alzheimer’s disease, is that it can’t be accurately diagnosed without being able to identify the beta-amyloid plaque build-up in the brain that cannot be identified without physically cutting into the brain and making a physical observation, which can only be undertaken at autopsy. However, PET scans can reveal the decline in brain function long before symptoms of AD are present, and these scans are revealing that ever more younger people are being diagnosed with deficient function. One of the primary hallmarks of the disease is a reduction in the rate that the brain is able to utilise glucose, what is generally referred to as the cerebral metabolic rate of glucose regulation (CMRglu). Amy Berger points out that Dr Joseph Kraft, who did pioneering work on insulin years ago, tests for insulin using the oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) over a minimum period of two hours. He is, however, more interested in the insulin levels; a fasting blood glucose might only be kept in check with pathologically high levels of insulin. Dr Kraft’s extended OGTT with insulin assays revealed that the incidence of hyperinsulinemia is wildly underestimated and underappreciated. Berger points out that AD patients have shown a staggering 45% reduction in hippocampal metabolic rate of glucose (CMRglu), and that this reduction is observable in pet scans of people in their 30s and 40s, long before any signs of dementia are observed. Researchers further discovered the lower the cerebral metabolic rate of glucose (CMRglu), the more severe the degree of Alzheimer’s disease progression was found in AD patients. Berger also mentions that one of her patients made a noticeable improvement in cognitive function simply introducing coconut oil into their diet, giving fuel to the brain that bypassed the use of glucose metabolism. 
The idea that blood sugar problems can go undetected for a considerable period of time has been claimed by many researchers, to lead to late diagnosis in cases of metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and dementia, leading in many cases to such advanced damage that full restoration to health is not possible. It would be prudent to introduce testing procedures that could pick up, at the very least, abnormal insulin levels that affect these insidious diseases. Criticism of the accuracy of insulin assays may have prejudiced their use, some clinicians claiming a variation of a factor of two from one type of assay to another,  but the urgency of accurately measuring insulin should, in my view, be urgently addressed.
As Alzheimer’s is a metabolically created disease, if it has not advanced too far, it can of course be reversed by a radical change in the diet. The brain is particularly well-adapted to burning fat for fuel, which in some ways is a more efficient fuel for the brain. The classic ketogenic diet where all carbohydrates are restricted allows the brain access to fats and oils which it can readily utilise to energise neurons and overcome lack of the availability of glucose, which could occur in periods of food shortage. In some ways the brain is better suited to reliance on fats than the predominance of carbohydrates that has only advanced in the agricultural period of our history as a species. Whilst this in itself is not a huge challenge for our metabolism, the increased use of over-processed carbohydrates and sugar has prevailed following the acceptance of the cholesterol theory and the politicisation of dietary recommendations by Western governments and medical authorities—with the adoption of the reduced fat diets and the suggested increase in the use of carbohydrates.
Much of this use of over-processed carbohydrates can of course be laid at the doors of the food industry, in the way they have added various sugars to the majority of the foods they sell, and monopolised on the use of cheap white flour products to saturate foods stores with their products. Cost is a significant factor in choice of food products for many families, and availability is another. In a previous article in this series we suggested the cost of purchasing healthier options in food choices most often means much higher expenditure on food. We also pointed out how, particularly in the less well-off neighbourhoods that access to quality food shops can be severely limited, where often fast food outlets or simple convenience stores predominate.
Whilst simply reducing the consumption of over-processed carbohydrates can aid in the reversal of diabetes, other factors such as the use of exercise, the addition of healthy fats and oils, and the use of mineral and vitamin supplementation can significantly contribute to a successful outcome. Most nutritionists feel that a low-carb diet is more practical than the classical restrictive ketogenic diet.
The Link with Cancer
Dr Richard Jacoby has treated many patients with type 2 diabetes, and found like so many other doctors that the incidence of cancer among diabetics was much higher than in other sectors of the population. He found the incidence of cancer of the liver, pancreas, and endometrium (in women) was at least twice as high as with someone who did not have diabetes. And, not only was the incidence higher with diabetes, you were much more likely to die of it; women with breast cancer and diabetes are about 35 percent more likely to die of it than non-diabetic women. He points out the connection with sugar, it is well known that cancer cells thrive on glucose and such is cancer’s voracious appetite for glucose, that irradiated glucose is used to identify cancer via pet scans. Cancer in the body can be identified by observing where the irradiated glucose ‘hot spots’ are. Here is Jacoby’s take: ‘Because cancer cells grow rapidly in an uncontrolled manner, they need a lot of glucose to fuel expansion. When your blood sugar is high and you’ve got a lot of insulin sloshing around, you’re giving the cancer cells exactly what they need to grow and spread. 
The so-called ‘war on cancer’ is regarded as an abject failure by most people. Currently women face a 1 in 3 chance of being diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime, and for men it is even a more abysmal situation with their chance being 1 in 2. It is already the biggest killer of those under 75, and for those aged 54 to 64, cancer is responsible for more deaths than the next three causes—heart disease, accidents and stroke—put together. It is also the leading killer of children.  A 2014 WHO report warning of a ‘tidal wave of cancer’, declared that 14 million people are diagnosed with cancer each year, and is predicted to reach 19 million by 2025, and 24 million by 2035. The report warned: ‘The globe is facing a “tidal wave” of cancer, and restrictions on alcohol and sugar need to be considered, say World Health Organization scientists.’ 
Travis Christofferson, in his book, Tripping Over the Truth—How the Metabolic Theory of Cancer is Overturning One of Medicine’s Most Entrenched Paradigms, reviewed the development of numerous cancer treatments, and included discussion of Otto Warburg, the Nobel scientist, who believed that cancer was an energy problem, linked to the levels of oxygen in the cells. I first reported on Dr Warburg’s work in Unhealthy Betrayal, and his finding that if a cell was shown to be deficient in oxygen it would become cancerous, if it dropped below 35% capability.  Christofferson discusses Warburg’s interest in the fact that cancer has a great need for sugar as it uses a form of anaerobic respiration (fermentation) which is very inefficient compared to normal cells that use aerobic respiration which use oxygen. He make the point that it takes 18 times more glucose to extract the same amount of energy from fermentation than from aerobic respiration. Christofferson also discusses the work of Thomas Seyfried the geneticist who wrote a book called Cancer as a Metabolic Disease, in which he discusses his journey studying cancer, and his conclusion that it was a metabolically-based disease. He became another person who advocated reducing carbohydrates in the diet, and the use of the ketogenic diet (Seyfried also reported on Warburg’s work). He cites Seyfried’s conclusions: “In summary, the origin of carcinogenesis resides with the mitochondria in the cytoplasm, not with the genome in the nucleus.” This basically acknowledges that the mutating gene theory of cancer is dead in the water. Perhaps now study can divert to more useful areas such as metabolism—the culprit of most of chronic illness in our society. 
The mitochondria, as we have mentioned before are the energy generators of the cell, when they malfunction the consequences can lead to all kinds of problems, depending on the type of cells affected—cancer is just one outcome of energy breakdown in the cell. Restricting the supply of glucose to cancer cells is an obvious approach, something nutritionists have been advocating for years.
Mitochondria—the Engines of Health
Lee Know, in his excellent volume, Mitochondria and the Future of Medicine, suggests: ‘Tissues with a high demand for energy are uniquely dependent on the energy delivered by mitochondria and therefore have the lowest threshold for displaying symptoms of mitochondrial dysfunction. Thus the central nervous system is often one of the first systems to display outright symptoms of bioenergetic deficiencies. Large amounts of energy are required by neurons (nerve cells) to carry out their specialized functions.’ Whilst the brain only makes up 2% of a person’s bodyweight, at rest, it uses 20% of the total energy, 14 % of the blood flow and 20% of all the available oxygen. He further comments, The brain is a giant tangle of countless neurons, so it would stand to reason that this organ might suffer significantly from mitochondrial dysfunction, and possibly respond best to mitochondrial nutrients. 
Conditions like chronic fatigue syndrome, are specifically chronic failure of the mitochondria. Focus on feeding the mitochondria what they need nutritionally speaking and you will fix the chronic fatigue, which is basically created by a very impoverished nutrient poor diet over a long period of time in most cases. It can of course be affected my heavy metal exposure and other factors that disrupt mitochondrial function, but 99 percent of the time it is lack of nutrients.
Whilst we could continue to look at the way the dietary recommendations, resultant from the blind acceptance of what is now regarded as the seriously flawed theory regarding saturated fat and heart disease—have resulted in the serious breakdown of health in all the societies that have followed the dietary health guidelines that led to increasing consumption of highly processed carbohydrates, in particular sugar in all its forms—we have, so far, looked at some of the most serious consequences, which might make some readers reconsider what they choose to eat. What is required now is to acknowledge this grave error and institute a re-education of the general public into embracing a diet that includes whole foods, and quality fats, with greater emphasis on fresh organic vegetables—foods that actually promote health. As it is, there are too many vested interests, such as the pharmaceutical industry making vast sums supplying drugs to treat the chronic illness created, to really want to promote health initiatives; cancer is still big business, statins are still big business. And the food industry is making such profits selling all their sugar-laden products—there is little appetite for change.
There are still many doctors who live in total ignorance of the available science, and do not realise that saturated fat is actually good for you, and that the cholesterol theory is basically fundamentally flawed. Check out the videos The Heart of The Matter on this site on this topic for more of this. True change will come when we take charge of our own destinies and our health, and get informed. Good luck.
Andrew A D Burgoyne
Alzheimer’s Research UK. https://www.dementiastatistics.org/statistics/incidence-in-the-uk-and-globally/
Alzheimer’s Disease International, World Alzheimer’s Report 2015, “The Global Impact of Dementia”.
 Amy Berger, MS, CNS, NTP, The Alzheimer’s Antidote, Chelsea Green Publishing, 2017, p2.
 Suzanne M. de la Monte, “Type 3 Diabetes is Sporadic Alzheimer’s disease: Mini-Review,” European Neuropsychopharmacology 24, no. 12 (2014): 1954-60.
 Amy Berger, MS, CNS, NTP, The Alzheimer’s Antidote, Chelsea Green Publishing, 2017, p37.
 Susan E. Manley, Irene M. Stratton, Penelope M. Clark, Stephen D. Luzio. “Comparison of 11 Human Insulin Assays: Implications for Clinical Investigation and Research,” Clinical Chemistry, Vol. 53, Issue 5. May 2007
DOI: 10.1373/clinchem.2006.077784 Published April 2007
 Dr Richard P. Jacoby & Raquel Baldelomar, Sugar Crush—How to Reduce Inflammation, Reverse Nerve Damage, and Reclaim Good Health, Harper Collins, 2015, p59.
 Travis Christofferson, MS, Tripping Over the Truth—How the Metabolic Theory of Cancer is Overturning One of Medicine’s Most Entrenched Paradigms. Chelsea Green Publishing, 2017, p128.
 Andrew Burgoyne, Unhealthy Betrayal—How the Manipulation of Science and Politics by Corporate Interests Destroys health and Threatens the future of Humanity, Fundamental Press, 2015, p4.
 Travis Christofferson, Tripping Over the Truth—How the Metabolic Theory of Cancer is Overturning One of Medicine’s Most Entrenched Paradigms, Chelsea Green Publishing, 2017.
 Lee Know, ND, Mitochondria and the Future of Medicine—The Key to Understanding Disease, Chronic Illness, Aging and Life Itself. Chelsea Green Publishing, 2014.