A sustainable diet: good for the planet and our brains, too.

Several studies now show how a diet rich in vegetables and low in fats and sugar helps prevent dementia and learning problems in old age.

It should come as little surprise to many of us that the food produced by the Western agro-food industry is not only harming the life-support systems of the planet, it’s also harmful to our bodies.

Statistics have long shown that dementia and Alzheimer’s, not to mention heart disease and cancer, are far less prevalent in Mediterranean countries, where a diet rich in fruit and vegetables, as well as fish and vegetable oils is common, and where less meat and dairy are consumed. Now new evidence has proven that a diet rich in vegetables and low in sugars and saturated fats including meat, can help stave off dementia and Alzheimer’s as well. This according to an article published recently in New Scientist magazine.

The main research which involved an extensive study on rats conducted at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island (USA) suggests that Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia are in fact a “type 3” form of diabetes. Diabetes is caused by fatty and sugary diets, which causes the body’s production of insulin (a hormone produced by our pancreas to regulate glucose in the blood) to go into overdrive to deal with the constantly high levels of fat and sugar being consumed. This eventually leads to insulin resistance in organ, fat and muscle tissue, and a sudden drop in the amount of insulin our exhausted pancreas produces.

The significant role of insulin in the brain has recently come to light as well. Insulin, it has been found, also has an important role in the health of neurons and blood vessels in the brain, and has an especially important role in the parts of the brain responsible for memory, learning and cognition.  The researchers at Brown University now suggest that low levels of insulin in the brain, caused by that same initial overload of insulin and then crash, can impair these brain functions.

And just because you don’t have type-2 diabetes, it doesn’t guarantee that dementia won’t follow, the researchers said. In a separate study on a group of human volunteers who ate foods high in saturated fat and sugar, higher than normal levels of insulin in their brains followed just 4 weeks later, the potential beginning of insulin resistance.

“An unhealthy diet disrupts normal insulin function in the brain, increases inflammation and oxidative stress,” said the Suzanne Craft, an insulin and Alzheimer’s researcher.

In another study at the University of California, rats consuming processed foods as well as high-fructose corn syrup, a sweetener used in many soft drinks, had learning and memory problems after just six weeks, and showed evidence of being less responsive to insulin.

The article declares that an epidemic of dementia in western countries could ensue because of our addiction to fatty and sugary foods.

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