There isn’t much to laugh at when it comes to Alzheimer’s. It’s one of the cruelest ways to die, a form of dementia that affects over 26 million people. It erodes short term and long term memory and muscle memory too. The disease is the boogeyman of the adult world. Once it claims a victim, it never gives them up. However, much of the power monsters have is derived from our own fear. We are the ones that give it power over our everyday lives, that build Alzheimer’s up into a bully. Every so often though, we need to, as the British say, take the piss, out of our bullies. That being said, I declare Alzheimer’s nothing more than a pudgy case of diabetes with a peanut allergy.
Traditionally, Diabetes is divided into two categories: Type 1 and Type 2. Both types are determined by their relationship with the hormone, insulin. In type 1 the body has difficulty producing insulin. In type 2, the body produces insulin but has become resistant to the effects. Often, the body will try to compensate for this resistance by over-producing insulin. For the purposes of weight loss and metabolism, insulin matters because it can direct the flow of carbohydrates. If you’re insulin sensitive, it’s much easier for the body t to absorb carbohydrates into the liver and muscle tissue. If you have high levels of insulin resistance, carbohydrates are apt to be absorbed into fat cells instead.
There’s more: insulin is important for brain function. People tend to forget that the brain is a muscle. It needs energy too, and the primary energy source is glucose, and glucose is a sugar, and a sugar is a carbohydrate. This means your grey matter depends on insulin to transport brain-food. As Mark Bittman points out, “low insulin levels in the brain mean reduced brain function.” When the body is unable to transport glucose to the brain you develop memory loss…much like Alzheimer’s. There may not be a strict one to one relationship between Diabetes 1 , 2 and Alzheimer’s, but researchers believe these diseases have their origins in a failure of the endocrine system, which produces insulin. In fact, some researchers are so confident in the connection they’ve begun referring to Alzheimer’s as Type 3 diabetes. The relationship to insulin implies something else. Your diet matters. If you’re concerned about getting Alzheimer’s and your diet plays like a 3 hour block of Food Network programming, you’re not doing yourself any favors.
As for the peanut allergy, this represents good news when it comes to detecting Alzheimer’s early. University of Florida researchers are developing a test for the disease through the use of peanut butter. It turns out those in the early stages of the disease lose their sense of smell, particularly in the left nostril. Peanut butter is detected exclusively by the olfactory nerve, which deteriorates in the presence of Alzheimer’s. In the case of peanut butter, no other nerve can pick up the slack. According to the research, a false negative is highly unlikely.
These developments represent great news. Scientists are closer to understanding both the root causes of Alzheimer’s as well as developing methods for early detection. In turn, this will streamline the process of researching viable cures, while early detection will allow for preemptive treatment. Patients will meet the disease head on, ready to show this bully who’s boss. Our fears are shaped by what we don’t know, and Alzheimer’s has been a stubborn, dense enigma. As more is learned about the disease, the less intimidating it becomes. Our fear is replaced with hope. Remember, Alzheimer’s is not an unknowable; in fact, it’s just a sickly nerd, a diabetic with a peanut allergy.
Written By David Arroyo
Advances in Medicine