Diabetes and Alzheimer’s: Is There a Link?By Elisa - Jenny Craig Science-Backed
Diabetes — a disease that affects the body’s ability to convert sugar to energy — affects nearly 30 million people in the U.S.1 An estimated 90-95% of those affected have Type 2 diabetes,1 which has been linked to lifestyle factors such as physical inactivity, smoking and being overweight. What’s more, an estimated one in four people living with diabetes don’t even know they have it.2
While diabetes can be managed, it requires meticulous attention to nutrition and physical activity to maintain a person’s health and overall quality of life. When diabetes is not controlled, unregulated blood glucose levels can have a damaging effect on the body — potentially causing harm to vital organs, including the brain.3
Recently, new evidence has linked Type 2 diabetes to Alzheimer’s disease, the most common cause of dementia.4-5 However, researchers haven’t concluded that diabetes is a direct cause for developing the disease, but rather people with diabetes have a greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s.4
What’s the connection?
Although more research is needed to fully understand the role diabetes plays in connection with Alzheimer’s, there are a few key elements that may have an influence. According to the Alzheimer’s Association,6 unregulated insulin levels could impact brain function over time, increase inflammation throughout the body and most notably, increase the risk of damage to blood vessels, including those in the brain which can impact thinking processes.7
How can you decrease your risk?
There are preventative measures you can take to potentially reduce your risk of developing both diseases. According to researchers, following your body’s natural circadian rhythm, also known as your body’s internal clock, may help.8-9 Read on to learn how you may be able to integrate a nutrition strategy around your body’s natural rhythm and the benefits of doing so.
Follow your circadian rhythm and integrate a daylight nutrition strategy
As defined by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, circadian rhythms are the physical, mental, and behavioral changes that follow a daily cycle.10 Your circadian rhythm influences your sleep-wake cycles, hormones, eating habits and more.10 Since mounting research indicates that disrupted circadian rhythms could lead to weight gain, sleep disturbances and potentially various diseases,11 adhering to your natural clock may be one of the most simple ways to achieve a healthier lifestyle.
So how can you follow your natural rhythm? Try integrating a daylight nutrition strategy. Also referred to as time-restricted feeding, a daylight nutrition strategy is basically doing what your body has evolved to do over millions of years: stay active while it’s light, sleep when it’s dark, and refrain from eating during your body’s natural resting period. By consuming your food within a 12-hour period, and allowing your body 12-hours of rejuvenation time, where only water or herbal tea is digested, you’ll not only be working with your metabolism, you’ll also be allowing your cells to “clean house” by letting them focus on regenerating and repairing themselves instead of metabolizing food.
For example, if you start your day with breakfast at 7 a.m., your last meal or snack of the day would be at 7 p.m. Assuming you’re sleeping close to the recommended seven to eight hours a night,12 putting this eating schedule into practice may not be as hard as you think.
How does a daylight nutrition strategy help?
A daylight nutrition strategy may help foster health in a couple of ways that are relevant to the prevention of Type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. First, following this type of eating pattern may improve insulin sensitivity,13 stimulating the production of enzymes known to fight cognitive decline. Furthermore, adhering to a daylight nutrition strategy could also help to reduce inflammation throughout the body,14 potentially reducing your chances of various brain function and neurodegenerative disorders caused by inflammation.15
3 other healthy habits to follow
Abstaining from late-night meals and following your natural circadian rhythm are just a couple of ways to get started. According to Harvard Medical School,16 three other lifestyle adjustments could also potentially help you reduce your risk of both Type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease:
1. Eat right
Consuming a well-rounded diet may help combat the development of Alzheimer’s disease or at least slow its progression.17 There’s no need to cut out any particular food group — incorporating a variety of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, dairy, poultry and eggs is a great place to start. Following a diabetic weight loss program will teach you how to eat the right foods to manage your blood sugar and weight.
2. Move more
Exercise is a key component of any healthy lifestyle, and experts recommend aiming for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, like brisk walking, most days of the week.18 Not only has physical activity been linked to a reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease,19 it’s also been linked to a reduced risk of Type 2 diabetes by helping to regulate blood sugar levels and cholesterol.20
3. Sleep well
Mounting evidence points to the importance of a good night’s sleep for weight maintenance. There’s also a growing body of research that suggests sleep may help to clear the brain of amyloids, one of several proteins linked to Alzheimer’s disease.21 Lack of sleep has also been linked to prediabetes as the body can react similarly to when it’s experiencing insulin resistance.22
If you’re ready to focus on improving your eating habits, Jenny Craig is here to help. Contact us today to get started!
Elisa is a content marketing manager for Jenny Craig with over ten years of experience working in the health and fitness industry. She loves sharing her passion for living a balanced and healthy lifestyle. A San Diego native and an endurance sports enthusiast, you can usually find her swimming, biking along the coast highway or running by the beach in her free time. Elisa holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from California State University Chico.
Favorite healthy snack: mozzarella string cheese with a Pink Lady apple.
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