The human body’s relationship with sugar is complicated. On many levels, the carbohydrate is vital—your brain literally needs it to function. But consuming the wrong kinds or wrong amounts of the sweet stuff can be detrimental to your metabolism and overall health (hence the rise of buzzy low-sugar eating plans like the ketogenic diet). And now, a new study published in the journal Diabetologia ties blood sugar and insulin levels to diabetes and increased incidences of cognitive decline.
The study looked at 5,189 people over a 10-year period and found a link between high blood sugar and the rate of mental decline, regardless of whether or not they actually had diabetes. (Of course, more research is needed to determine the effects of this relationship.) The Atlantic takes this connection one step further, pointing out the evidence linking type 2 diabetes as well as insulin use with an increased chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
“[Chronically-elevated insulin] is a product of many things, but most appreciably our diets.” —Brain health expert Max Lugavere
This insidious link between dementia and sugar is one that brain health expert and author of Genius Foods Max Lugavere is committed to exposing. “Forty percent of Alzheimer’s cases may be owed to chronically-elevated insulin, which is a product of many things, but most appreciably our diets, which are now dominated by ultra-processed foods,” he says.
Even if you take your coffee black (or Bulletproof-style!) and aren’t in the habit of munching on Oreos, Lugavere says you may be loading up on sugar—without realizing it. “Hidden sugars are everywhere,” he says, although they often go by different names.
The bottom line? “The time to make healthier brain choices is now, particularly because the implication—that eating less starchy, processed foods and sugar might save our brains—is not only a safe one but will likely improve the health of everything else as well,” Lugavere says.