This article should be Part 7 on stress and sleep in my Alzheimer’s series. I promise I will get back to that. But the diet part of Alzheimer’s prevention keeps preying on my mind. Why? Because diet matters to all illness, illnesses that can make you sick and take you down long before Alzheimer’s catches up with you. So stress and sleep will have to wait for a bit.
I have written over time about various “diets”. At the simplest possible level they usually revolve around how many grams of carbohydrate the diet allows. The carnivore diet dictates no carbohydrates. The LCHF (low carb/high fat) and keto diets prescribe varying levels of low carbohydrates and higher fat. A vegan diet has lots and lots of carbs because meat is not allowed. Well here is the news. For most of us, this should not be a carbohydrate discussion at all. Instead this should be a processed food discussion.
Fruits and vegetables plucked from a tree or out of a garden are the natural sources of carbohydrates just chock full of nutrition. Milk, including mother’s milk, is also a source of carbohydrates. Unless you are very unusual, these are really good for you. But those foods processed and packaged/bottled in a manufacturing plant are NOT really good for you. And here is why.
Whole fruits and vegetables contain some combination of glucose and fructose, usually in small amounts except in the case of starches like potatoes, and two kinds of fiber. The food goes in your mouth, through your stomach and into your intestinal tract.
The fiber has purpose. It slows the absorption of glucose and fructose, coats and plugs up holes in the intestinal lining that might allow undigested and toxic stuff to escape in to your blood stream, and feeds the bajillion bacteria in your intestines.
Commercially processed food has three unfortunate characteristics. The natural fiber has been removed because it can’t hold up in processing, problem #1. Freeze an orange or an avocado and see if they are edible when thawed. Any fiber in a processed food was added by the manufacturer after processing. That is NOT the same. The amount and kind of fiber in a plant will be specific to the requirement of the plant.
The processing has removed many if not most of the nutrients in the natural food, problem #2. And additional sugar (a combination of glucose and fructose) has been added, problem #3. Fructose (either high fructose corn syrup or, worse yet, crystalline fructose) will be an unnatural proportion of the sugar content.
Glucose is pretty normal stuff. Glucose raises your blood sugar. The glucose is absorbed by your cells with the assistance of insulin, a hormone released by your pancreas. In turn, your blood sugar goes back to normal and the glucose is converted into energy. No big deal for most people on a whole food diet.
Fructose, on the other hand, does not raise blood sugar or cause insulin release, and is not absorbed by the cells for energy. Instead fructose, like alcohol, has to be metabolized by the liver and is converted into fat. There is no other option available. Thus the chronic ingestion of fructose in a highly processed food diet is going to result in fat INSIDE your liver where it does not belong. Think fatty liver.
Think fruit juice, a glass of which is equivalent to several pieces of fruit with NO FIBER, -- a lot of calories, glucose, and fructose. Few would be able to eat the number of oranges in that glass in one sitting. Think soft drinks containing no nutritional value at all but contributing mightily to calories and fructose load.
While you are consuming the fructose load with all of the negative consequences, you are inevitably consuming too much glucose as well. For most of us the excess glucose in processed food will result in high levels of insulin generating a lot of extra weight, nutrient deficiency, and potentially diabetes and cardiovascular issues.
So what is your best bet for your health? The best bet for avoiding chronic diseases including Alzheimer’s? Minimize processed food and eat the food the way God, not a commercial manufacturer, delivers it.
The blog version of this article will be on my website and contain more detail along with and links to information sources. Take a look.
Pat Smith is the author of “It’s All about the Food,” a book that guides nutritious food choices as the way to avoid illness and maintain a healthy weight. All proceeds from her book benefit the Montgomery County Food Pantry. Her website is HYPERLINK “http://allaboutthefood.org/” http://allaboutthefood.org/. Telephone number 870-490-1836, email HYPERLINK “mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org” email@example.com.