Disturbing statistics show a sharp rise in cases of dementia in the elderly. Often times, the diagnosis comes late in the process when irreversible damage has been done. But what if we could catch the disease process early and stop or even reverse it? With more and more evidence demonstrating Alzheimer’s as a disease of impaired glucose metabolism, there is hope that treating diabetes, insulin resistance, and metabolic syndrome may also treat the risk for cognitive decline. Low-carb diets feature prominently in that treatment plan.
While most studies focus on dementia after it has been diagnosed, a wave of studies are now looking for earlier signs. A recent study in adults in Ecuador showed those with diabetes were more likely to have impairment in executive function, memory and attention compared to controls. These are early changes that frequently precede more advanced cognitive decline such as dementia.
As this was an observational trial, it is impossible to control for all variables, but they attempted to control for educational status, depression, hypertension and other baseline medical conditions. They still found significantly lower performance in those with diabetes. Also of note, this study included adults younger than 65 years old. Multiple studies have shown an association between dementia and diabetes in elderly patients, but this is one of the first to show earlier cognitive decline in younger patients. This gives greater hope for being able to diagnose the problem earlier, intervene earlier, and thus reverse the condition or at least prevent progression.
However, it isn’t clear that treating diabetes with insulin and oral hypoglycemic drugs prevent the deterioration in mental function. The emergence of low carb ketogenic diets as a powerful tool to treat and prevent diabetes may be the key for preventing associated cognitive decline. While this remains to be proven, most people would do anything to prevent a decrease in their cognitive function. A low carb diet is an excellent place to start!
Thanks for reading,
Bret Scher MD FACC