The esteemed health website Medical Daily recently came out with an article claiming that junk foods “rots your brain.” The word “rot” is perhaps a little stiff, but it does raise an important point: scientists are increasingly coming to the view that what we eat not only affects how our bodies perform, but also how our minds work.
Junk Food And Dementia
Past research suggested that people develop dementia for similar reasons that they get heart disease and strokes. Fatty, sugary, cholesterol-laden foods clog the arteries to the brain and raise blood pressure, damaging grey cells, and leading to the formation of plaques that cause people to lose their cognitive faculties. Dementia, in a sense, can be thought of as the heart disease of the brain. It’s fundamentally the same process, just playing out in a different type of biological tissue.
New Research On Insulin And Dementia
Current research, however, now suggests that there might be another mechanism too. Scientists from Brown University say that they have found that fatty and sugary foods also raise the level of glucose in the brain and reduce the ability of insulin to get into brain cells. More insulin must be released to have the same effect, potentially starving brain cells of the energy that they need to create new memories. Over time, this lack of energy leads brain networks to shut down, potentially causing the disease that we interpret as dementia in later life.
We typically think of a care home for dementia sufferers as being a place that older people go. But thanks to junk food, much younger people are already experiencing the effects of a poor lifestyle. There’s now evidence that, just like heart disease, the beginnings of dementia start in early life – even in our teenage years. Plaques begin to form in the brain and, if left unchecked, go on to cause the onset of disease.
New Treatment Options For Dementia
At the moment, the best way to avoid the buildup of plaque in the brain, high insulin levels, and high blood pressure is to get rid of the junk in your diet. Evidence suggests that people who eat more of a whole food diet have less pathology than those who don’t. This is not to say that you must avoid junk food forever, just that it shouldn’t be a part of your daily life. Birthdays and special events are okay, but every day is not.
Researchers are also experimenting with insulin to see if providing the hormone exogenously improves the performance of the brain. The hope is that if brain cells can once again get access to the glucose they need to function, they will spontaneously start creating new networks, reversing the effects. Researchers used a nasal spray to push insulin up into the brain directly. They found that people who had taken the spray had better memory and longer attention spans during cognitively demanding tasks.
Whether the new treatment will gain traction remains to be seen, but it is, nonetheless, an exciting development in the fight against dementia.