Saturday, February 4, 2012

Insulin Resistance and brain health

Watching my Dad's dementia, brain health is becoming a real interest.  Here is a study which shows that reduced insulin sensitivity is linked to smaller brain size and deteriorated language skills in the elderly. 

"We found that in elderly whose insulin sensitivity was still high, the brains were larger, and they had more grey matter in regions that are important for language skills, compared with those who had diminished insulin sensitivity. We also observed that higher insulin sensitivity was associated with better scores on the language test. Our findings offer a possible explanation for why methods that improve insulin sensitivity, such as exercise, are promising strategies for counteracting cognitive aging late in life," says Christian Benedict.

Of course insulin resistance is complex - not just about eating too many carbs - and Stephan's series is a great outline of the issues.  Again, environment, genetics, gut flora are all kicking around but a real food diet, rest, exercise and reducing stress all help keep you sensitive to insulin.


Mario Iwakura said...

Hi Chris,

I hope your dad recovers!

Yeah, insulin resistence is complex, just to add: hypothyroidism is associated with dementia, specially in the elderly. And then we have the association of hypothyroidism (even subclinical) with insulin resistence (pubmed 17582969).

Not to mention that hypothyroidism is also associated with lower levels of B12, (pubmed 18655403) and consequently with smaler brains (pubmed 12372744)!


Nigel Kinbrum said...

Hi Chris,

I insist that my mum (who's in a nursing home due to dementia with lewy bodies) is walked as often as possible. It takes two carers, a 3-wheeled walker and more time to do this, which is why most residents are moved about in wheelchairs.

Cheers, Nige

P.S. @Mario: Sadly, the brain damage caused by the various dementias is pretty much irreversible. It can be slowed and mental function can be improved by the use of a ketogenic diet & supplements. I have many blog posts on this subject.

Chris said...


as Nigel says, my Dad is not going to recover. He has mixed Alzheimers and vascular dementia, which will eventually kill him.

i am trying to get him on coconut oil.....

Mario Iwakura said...

Hi Chris and Nigel,

Sorry, what I wanted to mean was that I wish your dad (and Nigel mum) could improve somehow or, at least, stop worsening with the right care/treatment.

Besides coconut oil, another treatment for Alzheimer's that has great promisse, if you can find a MD that would prescribe it, is LDN (low dose naltrexone).

Chris said...

Thanks Mario

Nigel Kinbrum said...

Thanks Mario,

Ketones in the blood are good, as they result in a "dual-fuel" brain.

Unfortunately, once an old person is institutionalised, getting/keeping them on a ketogenic diet is almost impossible, as nursing homes know about gluten-free, lactose-free and "diabetic" diets, but not keto diets. Also, you need a Lasting Power of Attorney to have the right to administer supplements. Otherwise you have to get a doctor's permission.

Cheers, Nige.

Chris said...


It is hard isn't it? I'd rather my Dad was eating lots of cream, butter, meat eggs and coconut oil. But he is in hospital and gets what they provide. Plus he loves his cakes and biscuits - the only pleasure he gets now and my mum wants to keep feeding them to him

Nigel Kinbrum said...

I did consider making mum treats out of coconut oil and flavoured whey powder, as BCAA's enhance ketogenesis.

However, mum's condition deteriorated before I got around to doing this, so now mum eats whatever she likes.

Chris G said...

Chris I seem to remember Tim Ferriss" recent book advocating cycling creatine to help stave off alzheimers (I realize its probabLy a bit late for your Dad now). Something like a 2 week daily dose every couple of months.

I know what you mean about the nursing home diet, I used to shudder when I saw some of the meals they served my Mum, however well they meant. She had a sweet tooth too, which I put down to her childhood during WW2 when sugar was rationed in the UK. In her case the disease seemd to make her hyperactive (until it affected her physically) walking dozens of laps of the nursing each day.