Are You Eating Your Way to Memory Loss?

Blood Sugar and Memory

It’s no secret that the standard American diet can have a devastating impact on the brain. For example, research has linked high-glycemic, high-fat foods with impaired function in the brain’s hippocampus, a region associated with both memory and appetite control—which explains why eating junk food so easily becomes an addiction that fuels itself.

Convenience foods like chips, crackers, pretzels, cookies, and muffins are obvious offenders, but other common culprits—including white and wheat bread, pasta, white potatoes, and rice—are also considered high-glycemic and low-fiber, while sugar, offering zero nutritional value, depletes chromium and other valuable vitamins and minerals from the body. These foods are concerning for a variety of reasons, considering their links to mental health issues, such as ADD/ADHD and depression. But there is another, lesser-known reason to avoid them: They could be eroding your memory and even increasing the chances of developing dementia later in life.

High-glycemic, low-fiber foods could be eroding your memory and even increasing the chances of developing dementia later in life. Click To Tweet

THE LINKS BETWEEN WEIGHT, BLOOD SUGAR, AND MEMORY

With research linking abnormal insulin levels to Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive decline, some experts have questioned whether Alzheimer’s should be considered “type 3 diabetes.” A 2013 study in The New England Journal of Medicine suggested that higher glucose levels may be a risk factor for dementia, even among those without diabetes. And the higher the blood sugar level, the more the odds of getting dementia increases—with diabetes linked to decreased blood flow to the brain (the No. 1 predictor of future memory problems on brain SPECT imaging), as well as a smaller hippocampus.

That’s a major concern when diabetes and pre-diabetes now affect nearly half of the U.S. population, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Luckily, a majority of these cases are preventable through lifestyle changes that can help prevent diabetes—and thus the associated memory loss that accompanies it.

One example of preventative measures is maintaining a healthy weight. In a study in Current Alzheimer’s Research that examined more than 10,000 people over 36 years, being overweight or obese in midlife was shown to be strongly associated with memory problems and dementia in later life. And another study of 408 healthy adults showed that as BMI went up, cognitive scores decreased, especially in the category of decision making (i.e., the executive function of the brain)—helping explain why an unhealthy diet propels further unhealthy choices.

More recently, a study published in 2021 found that eating high-glycemic, processed foods may increase the risk for dementia. After only 4 weeks of consuming a highly processed food diet, aging rats demonstrated both signs of inflammation in the brain and signs of memory loss in behavioral experiments. This indicated that the hippocampus and amygdala regions of the brain were negatively affected by this type of diet in a surprisingly short amount of time.

FOLLOW A FIBER-RICH DIET FOR BRAIN HEALTH AND MEMORY PROTECTION

While some foods are notorious for contributing to memory problems, others can help rescue memory as part of a healthy diet. In addition to limiting high-glycemic, low-fiber foods, wheat (including whole wheat), and processed foods, it’s recommended to eat a diet high in “smart carbohydrates,” which are high in fiber and low on the glycemic index.

That’s because fiber is a significant dietary weapon in the fight against memory loss. A 2022 study published in Nutritional Neuroscience found that those who choose a high-fiber diet—specifically, one rich in soluble fiber—may have a lower risk of developing dementia. Those who ate the most fiber showed a roughly 25% lower risk of later-life dementia.

As the study indicates, there are two types of fiber—soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber provides “food” (commonly known as prebiotics) to health-promoting bacteria in the gut, which improves digestive health and helps reduce the bad bacteria that generate disease and hamper immunity. These friendly bacteria are also responsible for making certain vitamins, such as vitamin K and some B vitamins. You can find soluble fiber in foods such as apples, berries, flax seeds, and fiber supplements.

On the other hand, insoluble fiber works like a broom, helping to sweep the intestines clean, and ensuring that the fermented byproducts of soluble fiber are distributed throughout the colon. Because short-chain fatty acids, responsible for regulating cholesterol and insulin responses, are created in the colon, maintaining colon health is critical to proper metabolic function.

Fiber is a special type of carbohydrate because it can’t be digested by humans—and most Americans are not getting enough in their daily diet. Though women should aim for 25 to 30 grams per day, and men should eat 30 to 38 grams, the average American consumes less than 15 grams per day, an alarmingly low number.

Fiber offers myriad benefits for the body, improving the function of the bowels, reducing colon cancer risk, and helping stabilize blood sugar. It also contributes to feeling full faster, and stay full for a longer period of time, compared to high-glycemic, low-fiber foods. Fiber-rich foods can even help balance cholesterol and blood pressure.

Try adding these high-fiber foods to your diet: broccoli, berries, onions, flax seeds, nuts, green beans, cauliflower, celery, sweet potatoes, psyllium husk, navy beans, raspberries, broccoli, spinach, lentils, green peas, pears, winter squash, cabbage, green beans, avocados, coconut, figs, artichokes, chickpeas, and hemp and chia seeds. In general, prioritizing vegetables will contribute to getting the recommended daily amounts of both soluble and insoluble fiber, but those with insulin resistance or high cholesterol may choose to add fiber supplements to their morning glass of water or smoothie—an easy way to ensure intake of this brain-boosting nutrient.

Memory loss, dementia, and other mental health issues can’t wait. At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, remote clinical evaluations, and video therapy for adults, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.

15 Comments »

  1. Thank you for sharing this valuable information! I needed this, especially today.
    I’m so very thankful for the Email I receive from Amen . GOD Bless you all.
    IN HIS LOVE,

    Comment by Valerie Welty — May 27, 2022 @ 4:22 AM

  2. Great advice ! Your approach is really excellent and exactly what is needed for the looming epidemic of diabesity and alzheimers.
    Where do you place however lectin containing foods within the context of gut endothelial damage ? The tomato and cucumber , high fibre oat foods are considered problematic for gut biome integrity via damages endothelium . This is somewhat contradictory to some of your own views , so I would be interested to know where you place GI tract integrity and the listed food culprits in that context ! Many thanks

    Comment by Daemon Dewing — May 27, 2022 @ 4:23 AM

  3. Since I just had a colonoscopy and those in their 70s and beyond mostly have diverticuli in their colon, I know I have increased fiber in my meals. At 105 lbs. with great lab results I still have to work on the bloating and improving my gut health which my gastroenterologist stated increases with diverticuli. Thank you for continuing to educate those of us who are interested in mental and physical health Dr. Amen!

    Comment by Mrs. Ferris S.Whitfield — May 27, 2022 @ 4:37 AM

  4. I’m a new uses of Amen products and will use more as I learn more…I have not yet watched videos but will do so…HOWEVER, I am a reader and enjoy these short essentials on my mail – such as todays about FIBER and it’s connections to dementia and gut health….Thanks!….I wish there was a book, booklets or other printed articles with the same info as these on the mail site….

    Comment by Robert Rolff — May 27, 2022 @ 5:13 AM

  5. Just curious…how does all this affect a keto-ish diet?

    Comment by Laura Trent — May 27, 2022 @ 5:20 AM

  6. Do mini strokes and epilepsy effect the brain?

    Comment by David Anthony Emilo — May 27, 2022 @ 6:33 AM

  7. Thank you for this valuable and helpful article. It is a wake up call for me. Why is whole wheat a problem?

    Comment by Louisa — May 27, 2022 @ 8:50 AM

  8. Thanks for making these articles about the subject under discussion and not about you.

    Comment by Maxine Issa — May 27, 2022 @ 9:28 AM

  9. Ditto to the above letter. This is a wonderful email so full of important information……..thank you, thank you

    Comment by Diane daniel — May 27, 2022 @ 12:09 PM

  10. Thank you for your article. Question: nightshades are supposed to be inflammatory, wouldn’t that also be bad for brain health? You mention some nightshades two and three times, lentils and green beans. You also mentioned green beans twice, did you forget, LOL!

    Comment by Pat — May 28, 2022 @ 6:16 AM

  11. My husband has Parkinson’s and cognitive problems…. He’s not a healthy conscious person…. Any help for him??

    Comment by Rita Riggins — May 28, 2022 @ 6:48 AM

  12. Great information. I made some notes. I already follow a strict diet with fiber due to no longer having a gallbladder.

    Comment by Lisa Stanfill — May 28, 2022 @ 10:51 AM

  13. I love these informative articles. I have to make one observation. Dementia is exploding, beyond anything seen in the past. We, as humans, have always been eating carbs. I wonder if there is another component that influences
    dementia’s development, such as, fluoride, chlorinated water, MSG, aspirin, antibiotics… As for pulling a German doctor out of history who had one patient with dementia-like symptoms, then naming it with his surname for all of humanity, is just bad science. I feel there is a “leading” of the public (wag the dog) on this matter. Could dementia be more about the initiation of an unbalanced microbiome or a toxin that crosses the blood brain barrier than just eating carbs.

    Thank you for taking comments. I am an armchair physician and layperson researcher. My brain is crazy spinning about topics like this. A spec scan would prove that! 🙂 That’s my comment, thank you, thank you!

    Comment by Dee — May 29, 2022 @ 11:06 AM

  14. Thank you for being proactive with your patients.

    Comment by Sandhya — May 30, 2022 @ 8:32 PM

  15. Hi Laura, thanks for reaching out. Here are more articles from our website related to the keto diet: https://www.amenclinics.com/?s=keto.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — May 31, 2022 @ 6:59 PM

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