Sunday, May 28, 2017

The Brain Literally Starts Eating Itself When It Doesn't Get Enough Sleep



The reason we sleep goes far beyond simply replenishing our energy levels every 12 hours - our brains actually change states when we sleep to clear away the toxic byproducts of neural activity left behind during the day.
Weirdly enough, the same process starts to occur in brains that are chronically sleep-deprived too - except it's kicked into hyperdrive. Researchers have found that persistently poor sleep causes the brain to clear a significant amount of neurons and synaptic connections, and recovering sleep might not be able to reverse the damage.
A team led by neuroscientist Michele Bellesi from the Marche Polytechnic University in Italy has examined the mammalian brain's response to poor sleeping habits, and found a bizarre similarity between the well-rested and sleepless mice.
Like the cells elsewhere in your body, the neurons in your brain are being constantly refreshed by two different types of glial cell - support cells that are often called the glue of the nervous system.
The microglial cells are responsible for clearing out old and worn out cells via a process called phagocytosis - meaning "to devour" in Greek.
The astrocytes' job is to prune unnecessary synapses (connections) in the brain to refresh and reshape its wiring. 
We've known that this process occurs when we sleep to clear away the neurological wear and tear of the day, but now it appears that the same thing happens when we start to lose sleep.
But rather than being a good thing, the brain goes overboard with the clearing, and starts to harm itself instead.
Think of it like the garbage being cleared out while you're asleep, versus someone coming into your house after several sleepless nights and indiscriminately tossing out your television, fridge, and family dog.
"We show for the first time that portions of synapses are literally eaten by astrocytes because of sleep loss," Bellesi told Andy Coghlan at New Scientist.
To figure this out, the researchers imaged the brains of four groups of mice:
  • one group was left to sleep for 6 to 8 hours (well-rested)
  • another was periodically woken up from sleep (spontaneously awake)
  • a third group was kept awake for an extra 8 hours (sleep-deprived)
  • and a final group was kept awake for five days straight (chronically sleep-deprived).
When the researchers compared the activity of the astrocytes across the four groups, they identified it in 5.7 percent of the synapses in the well-rested mouse brains, and 7.3 of the spontaneously awake mouse brains.
In the sleep-deprived and chronically sleep-deprived mice, they noticed something different: the astrocytes had increased their activity to actually eating parts of the synapses like microglial cells eat waste - a process known as astrocytic phagocytosis. 
In the sleep-deprived mouse brains, the astrocytes were found to be active across 8.4 percent of the synapses, and in the chronically sleep-deprived mice, a whopping 13.5 percent of their synapses showed astrocyte activity.
As Bellesi told New Scientist, most of the synapses that were getting eaten in the two groups of sleep-deprived mice were the largest ones, which tend to be the oldest and most heavily used - "like old pieces of furniture" - which is probably a good thing.
But when the team checked the activity of the microglial cells across the four groups, they found that it had also ramped up in the chronically sleep-deprived group.
And that's a worry, because unbridled microglial activity has been linked to brain diseases like Alzheimer's and other forms of neurodegeneration.
"We find that astrocytic phagocytosis, mainly of presynaptic elements in large synapses, occurs after both acute and chronic sleep loss, but not after spontaneous wake, suggesting that it may promote the housekeeping and recycling of worn components of heavily used, strong synapses," the researchers report.
"By contrast, only chronic sleep loss activates microglia cells and promotes their phagocytic activity ... suggesting that extended sleep disruption may prime microglia and perhaps predispose the brain to other forms of insult."
Many questions remain, such as if this process is replicated in human brains, and if catching up on sleep can reverse the damage.
But the fact that Alzheimer's deaths have increased by an incredible 50 percent since 1999, together with the struggle that many of us have in getting a good night's sleep, means this is something we need to get to the bottom of - and fast.
The research has been published in the Journal of Neuroscience.

Understanding the Cancer and Treatment: Chemotherapy



This video about chemotherapy, created by Nucleus Medical Media, depicts normal cell division, apoptosis, tumor cell formation, tumor development, and angiogenesis of a tumor. It describes the cause of tumor cell formation at the genetic level with DNA, and metastasis through blood and lymph vessels. This animation covers the various effects of chemotherapy: cancer cell death, tumor death, destruction of normal cells and tissue. It also covers the side effects associated with chemotherapy treatments. Also described are related treatments, such as, radiation, pills, capsules, liquids, intravenous injections, surgical procedures, catheterization, CSF injection, wafter placement, and schedule of treatments.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Cannabis May Help Rejuvenate the Aging Brain and Ward Off Dementia

 


By Dr. Mercola
Regardless of your views on the pros and cons of recreational marijuana, the body of scientific evidence about its medicinal value is getting more compelling as additional research is done. The cannabinoids in cannabis — cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — interact with your body by way of naturally-occurring cannabinoid receptors embedded in cell membranes throughout your body.
In fact, scientists now believe the endocannabinoid system may represent the most widespread receptor system in your body.1 There are cannabinoid receptors in your brain, lungs, liver, kidneys, immune system and more, and both the therapeutic and psychoactive properties of marijuana occur when a cannabinoid activates a cannabinoid receptor.
Your body actually makes its own cannabinoids, similar to those found in marijuana, albeit in much smaller quantities than you get from the plant. The fact that your body is replete with cannabinoid receptors, key to so many biological functions, is why there's such enormous medical potential for cannabis.
The whole plant also contains terpenes that have medicinal properties. More often than not, medicinal marijuana is made from plants bred to have high CBD and low THC content. While THC has psychoactive activity that can make you feel "stoned," CBD has no psychoactive properties. However, recent research shows THC should not be written off completely just because it's psychoactive. It has valuable therapeutic potential in its own right.

THC May Reverse Aging Process in the Brain

According to recent animal research,2 THC has a beneficial influence on the aging brain.3,4 Rather than dulling or impairing cognition, THC appears to reverse the aging process and improve mental processes, raising the possibility it might be useful for the treatment of dementia in the elderly.5
To test the hypothesis, mice were given a small daily dose of THC over the course of one month at the age of 2 months, 12 months and again at 18 months of age. It is important to understand that mice typically live until 2 years old. The dose was small enough to avoid any psychoactive effects.
Tests assessed the animals' learning, memory, orientation and recognition skills. Interestingly, 18-month-old mice given THC demonstrated cognitive skills equal to 2-month-old controls, while the placebo group suffered cognitive deterioration associated with normal aging.
According to one of the authors, neurobiology professor Andreas Zimmer, University of Bonn, "The treatment completely reversed the loss of performance in the old animals. We repeated these experiments many times. It's a very robust and profound effect." Even more remarkable, gene activity and the molecular profile in the brain tissue was that of much younger animals. Specifically, neurons in the hippocampus grew more synaptic spines — points of contact necessary for communication between neurons.
According to Zimmer, the THC appeared to have "turned back the molecular clock" in the THC-treated animals. (Previous research has also shown that the brain ages much faster in mice who do not have functional receptors for THC, suggesting THC may be involved in the regulation of the aging process.6) The team is now planning tests to see if the same holds true in human subjects.

Cannabinoids Maintain Homeostasis

Your endocannabinoid system has homeostatic properties, meaning it helps balance your body's response to stress. This helps explain some of the individual variations in response to cannabis.
In your brain, cannabinoids modulate neural activity. In younger people, in which endogenous cannabinoids are already plentiful, cannabis will not have the same effect as in older people, in whom activity of the endogenous cannabinoid system is much lower. The effects of THC in particular appear to vary significantly depending on age. As noted by Forbes:7
"[Y]ounger animals excelled at the tests when 'sober' but tended to struggle significantly under the influence of THC. 'Mature' and 'old' mice, on the other hand, struggled with tasks as consistent with their brain ages at first, but saw a huge increase in performance with THC infusions …
Overall, the results seem to support researchers' belief that the benefits for older mice are a result of stimulating the brain's endocannabinoid system, a biochemical pathway in both mice and human that grows less active over time."
In other words, in young mice (and probably people as well), THC can easily have an overly stimulating effect, resulting in a decline in memory and learning (albeit temporary, while under the influence). In older mice, a small amount of THC basically restored levels to a more youthful optimum.
Similarly, one of the reasons cannabis is so effective for seizures is because of this ability to regulate neuronal activity and reestablish homeostasis. If there's too much neuronal activity, the cannabis suppresses activity, and if activity is low, it raises it.

Cannabis for Pain


Polls show older Americans are becoming increasingly converted to marijuana use.8 Between 2006 and 2013, use among 50- to 64-year-olds rose by 60 percent. Among seniors over 65, use jumped by 250 percent.9 Pain and sleep are among the most commonly cited complaints for which medicinal marijuana is taken.
Considering the high risk of lethal consequences of opioid painkillers and sleeping pills, medical marijuana is a godsend. It's really unfortunate that we've been so successfully indoctrinated to view marijuana as a dangerous gateway drug that will lead to illicit drug use.
The reality is that prescription drugs have far greater potential to turn you into a "junkie." Legal drug addiction is also taking lives in record numbers. There's absolutely no doubt that cannabis is safer than most prescription drugs — especially opioids. As noted by Dr. Margaret Gedde, an award-winning Stanford-trained pathologist and founder of Gedde Whole Health, there's enough scientific data to compare the side effects of cannabis against the known toxicities of many drugs currently in use.
This includes liver and kidney toxicity, gastrointestinal damage, nerve damage and, of course, death. Cannabidiol has no toxicity and it's virtually impossible to die from marijuana. It's also self-limiting, as excessive doses of THC will provoke anxiety, paranoia and nausea.
Such side effects will disappear as the drug dissipates from your system without resulting in permanent harm, but it'll make you think twice about taking such a high dose again. Make the same mistake with an opioid, and chances are you'll end up in the morgue.

Cannabis Often Works Where Drugs Fail

Gedde also notes that cannabis products often work when other medications fail, so not only are they safer, they also tend to provide greater efficacy.
In 2010, the Center for Medical Cannabis Research (CMCR) released a report10 on 14 clinical studies about the use of marijuana for pain, most of which were FDA-approved, double-blind and placebo-controlled. The report revealed that marijuana not only controls pain, but in many cases, it does so better than pharmaceutical alternatives.
When cannabis is inhaled, smoked or vaporized, its effects are rapid and short-lasting. Orally, it's the most unpredictable and delayed. When ingesting it, it can take up to two hours to take effect, but if dosed appropriately, you can achieve once-a-day dosing with an edible medicine.
As for the psychoactive effects of THC, a dose of 10 milligram (mg) or more of an oral (edible) THC product is required to produce a high.11 Taking 50 to 100 mg of oral THC could result in a serious case of paranoia, with or without nausea and vomiting.

Other Common Ailments Treated With Cannabis

Aside from pain and sleep, other common ailments being treated with cannabis include:
Degenerative neurological disorders such as dystonia
Multiple sclerosis and other autoimmune issues
Mood disorders, anxiety and post-traumatic distress disorder (PTSD).12,13 Marijuana suppresses dream recall, so for those having nightmares, it can be transformative. Marijuana is also reported to help individuals stay focused in the present, which is beneficial for those experiencing flashbacks.
In January 2017, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies14 began the first federally-approved study in which the subjects — combat veterans diagnosed with PTSD — will ingest marijuana by smoking. It's also the first whole-plant marijuana study, as opposed to an extract
Seizure disorders such as Dravet syndrome,15 also known as Severe Myoclonic Epilepsy in Infancy, a form of intractable, life-threatening epilepsy in which a child can suffer upward of 100 seizures a day. Certain varieties of cannabis offer the only real hope for children with this type of disorder, as Dravet syndrome does not respond well to standard epilepsy drugs
Cannabis even appears to be a natural chemotherapy agent. Dozens of studies point to marijuana's effectiveness against many different types of cancer, including brain cancer, breast, prostate, lung, thyroid, colon and pituitary cancer, melanoma and leukemia.
It fights cancer via at least two mechanisms, making it difficult for a cancer to grow and spread. It's proapoptotic, meaning it triggers apoptosis (cellular suicide) of cancer cells while leaving healthy cells untouched, and antiangiogenic, meaning it cuts off a tumor's blood supply.

Could Cannabis Offer New Hope for Alzheimer's Patients?

Getting back to where we started, with THC rejuvenating the aging brain, this actually wasn't the first time THC has been shown to provide benefits against dementia.
In a 2014 study, researchers at the University of South Florida and Thomas Jefferson University found that low-dose THC directly impedes the buildup of beta amyloid plaque in the brain,16,17 which is associated with the development of Alzheimer's, and unlike so many pharmaceutical drugs, it produces no toxicity. THC was also found to enhance mitochondrial function in the brain. Lead author and neuroscientist Chuanhai Cao, Ph.D., wrote:
"THC is known to be a potent antioxidant with neuroprotective properties, but this is the first report that the compound directly affects Alzheimer's pathology by decreasing amyloid beta levels, inhibiting its aggregation and enhancing mitochondrial function."
Cannabis is also known to reduce some of the non-memory-related symptoms typically experienced by Alzheimer's sufferers, including anxiety, irritability and rage,18 so cannabis may well have multiple benefits for those with dementia and Alzheimer's.

Where to Find Reputable Information About Medical Cannabis, Its Uses and Benefits

If the idea of using medical cannabis (provided it's legal in your state) still makes you cringe, I recommend delving deeper into the research to educate yourself on the matter, especially if your alternative is an opioid pain pill or some other dangerous drug.
One reputable source where you can find research relating to the use of cannabis is cancer.gov.19,20 This is the U.S. government's site on cancer. Simply enter "cannabis" into the search bar. You can also peruse the medical literature through PubMed,21 which is a public resource (again, simply enter "cannabis" or related terms into the search bar).
The Journal of Pain,22 a publication by the American Pain Society, has a long list of studies on the pain-relieving effects of cannabis and would certainly seem worth the effort for anyone with chronic pain to utilize.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse,23 which also has information relating to the medicinal aspects of marijuana, preclinical and clinical trials are underway to test marijuana and various extracts for the treatment of a number of diseases, including autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer's disease, inflammation, pain and mental disorders.
I also recommend listening to my previous interviews with Gedde and Dr. Allan Frankel, in which they discuss the clinical benefits of cannabis. Frankel is a board-certified internist in California who has treated patients with medical cannabis for the past decade.
Awareness is starting to shift, and many are now starting to recognize the medical value of cannabis. Even the former U.S. Surgeon General has spoken out in favor of medical marijuana. His statement echoes a growing sentiment in the medical and scientific communities that the health benefits of marijuana should no longer be ignored. Murthy was replaced this month by his deputy, Rear Adm. Sylvia Trent-Adams.




Coconut Oil Kills >93% of Colon Cancer Cells In Vivo



In this newly published lab study, lauric acid (coconut oil is about 50% lauric acid) killed over 93% of human colon cancer cells (Caco-2) after 48 hours of treatment. Intriguingly, the lauric acid poisoned the cancer cells by simultaneously unleashing profound oxidative stress while strongly reducing their levels of glutathione (which is exactly what the cancer cells needed to protect themselves from the increased oxidative stress).
While we are just now discovering coconut oil’s full anti-cancer potential, its many health benefits have already been well established through medical research. It naturally kills multiple viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites. It aids digestion and liver metabolism, reduces inflammation, and promotes healthier skin and faster wound healing when applied topically. It may also be an effective aid for diabetes. It has been shown to raise levels of the beneficial cholesterol HDL in women, improve their LDL: lassHDL ratio, and resulted in superior weight loss and abdominal loss compared to soybean oil.
Coconut oil is now being used in clinical trials for improving cholesterol in patients with chronic heart disease, in fighting Alzheimer’s, and for improving blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Coconut oil is unique in that it is about 50% lauric acid, a medium-chained triglyceride that is otherwise very hard to find in our diets (palm kernel oil is also about 50% lauric acid). Interestingly, lauric acid makes up about 2% of the fat in cow’s milk but 6% of the fat in human milk, implying that humans may have a naturally higher need for this fatty acid.
These studies don’t necessarily mean coconut is the panacea of cancer. What it means is that nature has provided many natural ways to combat disease. The more research we can do and the more information we can share with others gives us opportunities to possibly find cures and preventive measures using Mother Nature instead of simply putting our faith in the medical communities singular approach to disease.

New Harvard Study Confirms Cannabis Makes You Smarter



Over the past few decades, scientists have been trying to uncover whether or not cannabis harms long-term brain health. Much of the research thus far has been focused on the adolescent use and IQ in adulthood. Yet, it has been difficult to nail down many firm impacts. Now, a small study published in Frontiers in Pharmacology conducted by Harvard University, Tufts University, and McLean Hospital, has found that cannabis seems to improve cognition.

Harvard pilot study finds cannabis improves cognition


The pilot study included 24 participants, who were studied over a three-month time span. Unfortunately, only 11 patients returned at the end of the testing period. All participants were patients with medical cannabis authorizations for either anxiety, chronic pain, depression, and sleep. Though, most of the patients had two or more ailments.
After three months of cannabis treatment, the patients took two different cognitive tests. The first is called the Stroop Color Word Test. This test assesses thinking ability by measuring how long it takes for a person to name a color of a printed word that does not match the written word itself. For example, black. Patients also performed a trail making test, which requires them to connect numbered dots.
The three-month scores were then compared to their original baseline. After herbal therapy, the study found that patients were faster in completing tasks. They also did not make any more errors than they had before. Patients also self-reported improvements in a variety of symptoms, including condition-related symptoms, sleep, and overall health.

Patients pick cannabis over opioids


In a report released by McLean Hospital, Staci Gruber, Ph.D. and Director of the Marijuana Investigations for Neuroscientific Discovery (MIND) explained that 42 percent of patients chose cannabis over prescription opioid painkillers. Gruber is enthusiastic about this number. She explains,
This is significant, particularly for those of us in Massachusetts and other areas of the country where the opioid epidemic is ravaging so many. This preliminary finding certainly warrants deeper and broader investigation.
Similar findings have been reported in other surveys, such as one with 271 respondents published in February [2017]. This study found that 30 percent of respondents preferred cannabis to opioid pain relievers. More research suggests that patients see cannabis as a viable alternative to pain relievers.
Still, Gruber wants to play it safe on the subject until more researcher is completed. She says,
As a clinical researcher, I’m not interested in exploring only the good or the bad, I’m only interested in the truth. That’s what our patients and our recreational users have a right to know and a right to expect from us. People are going to use it. It’s up to us to figure out the very best and safest ways in which they can do that.
Still, this pilot study has promise. Recently, a study performed in rodents found that a daily dose of THC improved cognitive ability and seemed to reduce brain aging. When older rodents were treated with the cannabis compound for a month, they were better able to complete maze tasks and remember things they had learned before.
Young rodents treated with THC performed worse in the tests, but the seniors had rapidly improved cognitive ability. Post-treatment, senior mice showed similar mental faculties to non-treated young mice.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

What Does Sugar Do to Your Brain?


Story at-a-glance-

  • The overconsumption of sugar is increasingly being linked to brain-related health issues such as depression, learning disorders, memory problems and overeating
  • Research suggests consumption of sugar and sweets can trigger reward and craving states in your brain similar to addictive drugs
  • Not all sugars have the identical effects. Fructose has been shown to activate brain pathways that increase your interest in food, whereas glucose triggers your brain’s satiation signal


By Dr. Mercola
While all cells in your body can use glucose for energy, when you burn fat as your primary fuel your liver produces ketones that burn far "cleaner" in that they generate fewer reactive oxygen species (ROS) and secondary free radicals than sugars. The conventional view is that you need sugar or glucose to satisfy your energy needs, but only a very small amount of sugar is actually required. Because sugar represents calories, excessive consumption will negatively affect your health.
If you haven't given much thought to how much sugar you consume and what it may be doing to your health, now is the time to get educated. Overconsumption of sugar is increasingly being linked to brain-related health issues such as depression, learning disorders, memory problems and overeating.1

Your Body Recognizes Sugar as a 'Drug'

Writing in The Atlantic, neuroendocrinologist Dr. Robert Lustig, professor of pediatrics in the division of endocrinology at University of California, San Francisco, states:2
"… [T]he [U.S.] war on drugs has taken a back seat, but not because it has been won. Rather, because a different war has cluttered the headlines — the war on obesity. And a substance even more insidious, I would argue, has supplanted cocaine and heroin.
The object of our current affliction is sugar. Who could have imagined something so innocent, so delicious, so irresistible … could propel America toward … medical collapse?"
Previous research3 involving humans and laboratory rats suggests consumption of sugar and sweets can trigger reward and craving states in your brain similar to addictive drugs. Not only can sugar and sweets substitute for drugs like cocaine, in terms of how your brain reacts to them, they can be even more rewarding.
The dramatic effects of sugar on your brain may explain why you may have difficultly controlling your consumption of sugary foods when continuously exposed to them. Another study4 suggests a high degree of overlap exists between brain regions involved in processing natural rewards, such as sugar and sweets, and drugs of abuse.
"'Non-drug' or 'behavioral' addictions have become increasingly documented …  and pathologies include compulsive activities such as shopping, eating, exercising, sexual behavior and gambling. Like drug addiction, non-drug addictions manifest in symptoms including craving, impaired control over the behavior, tolerance, withdrawal and high rates of relapse."

The Biology of Your Brain: How Bad Habits Like Sugar Addiction Take Root

An article published by CNN Health5 reminds us that the connection between your nucleus accumbens and prefrontal cortex drives intentional actions, such as deciding whether you will take another bite of chocolate cake, for example.
Your prefrontal cortex also activates hormones like dopamine, triggering thoughts such as, "Hey, this cake is really good. And I'm going to remember that for the future." Lustig explains the biological process that takes place when you consume sugar or any addictive substance:6
"The brain's pleasure center, called the nucleus accumbens, is essential for our survival as a species. … Turn off pleasure, and you turn off the will to live. But long-term stimulation of the pleasure center drives the process of addiction.
When you consume … sugar, your nucleus accumbens receives a dopamine signal, from which you experience pleasure. And so you consume more. The problem is with prolonged exposure, the signal … gets weaker. So you have to consume more to get the same effect — tolerance. And if you pull back on the substance, you go into withdrawal. Tolerance and withdrawal constitute addiction. And make no mistake, sugar is addictive."
Brain-injury survivor and author Debbie Hampton explains how habits are formed around addictive behaviors:7
"Every time you follow the same path, a specific pattern is activated and becomes more defined … and it becomes easier to activate the circuit the next time. … Pretty soon, the bad habit neuronal pathway becomes the unconscious default, and your brain, wanting to be efficient, just takes the easiest, most familiar route. This is particularly true in the case of depression.
In a depressed brain, there's less dopamine activity happening in the nucleus accumbens, which means that things that used to be enjoyable are not as pleasurable, and the only things that motivate it have to have a big dopamine payoff, which are the baddest of the bad habits, such as junk food, drugs, alcohol [and] gambling."

Brain Imaging Shows Food Addiction Is Real

Research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition8 examined the effects of high-glycemic index (GI) foods on brain activity, using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Twelve overweight or obese men between the ages of 18 and 35 consumed one high-GI and one low-GI meal.
Imaging was completed four hours after each test meal to assess the cerebral blood flow as a measure of resting brain activity. The researchers expected brain activity to be greater after the high-GI meal in regions related to craving, eating behavior and reward. According to the researchers:
"Compared with a … low-GI meal, a high-GI meal decreased plasma glucose, increased hunger and selectively stimulated brain regions associated with reward and craving in the late postprandial period. … [T]he high-GI meal elicited greater brain activity centered in the right nucleus accumbens."
The study demonstrates what you may experience when eating a high-GI meal. After rapidly digesting net carbohydrates, your blood sugar initially spikes, followed by a sharp crash later. As noted by researchers, this crash in blood glucose stimulated greater brain activity in the nucleus accumbens, the brain's pleasure center Lustig mentioned above.

Can Too Much Sugar Contribute to Alzheimer's Disease?

While insulin is usually associated with its role in keeping your blood sugar levels in a healthy range, it also plays a role in brain signaling. In one animal study, when researchers disrupted the proper signaling of insulin in the brain, they were able to induce many of the characteristic brain changes seen with Alzheimer's disease, including confusion, disorientation and the inability to learn and remember.9
It's becoming increasingly clear that the same pathological process that leads to insulin and leptin resistance, as well as type 2 diabetes, may also hold true for your brain. As you overindulge on sugar and grains, your brain becomes overwhelmed by the consistently high levels of insulin. Eventually insulin, leptin and signaling become profoundly disrupted, leading to impairments in your memory and thinking abilities.
A study published in Diabetes Care found that type 2 diabetes is associated with a 60 percent increased risk of dementia in men and women.10 Research featured in the New England Journal of Medicine noted a mild elevation of blood sugar, such as a level of 105 or 110, is also associated with an elevated risk for dementia.11
Dr. David Perlmutter, neurologist and author of the books "Brain Maker" and "Grain Brain," believes Alzheimer's disease is primarily predicated on lifestyle choices, including sugar consumption. He suggests anything that promotes insulin resistance will ultimately also raise your risk of Alzheimer's.

Glucose and Fructose: How Do They Affect Your Brain?

Increases in processed fructose consumption, typically in the form of high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), seem to be running parallel to the spikes seen in obesity rates, so much so that diets high in it are thought to promote insulin resistance and weight gain. The Journal of the American Medical Association featured a study12 involving 20 adult volunteers who underwent magnetic resonance imaging sessions at Yale University to identify neurophysiological factors related to fructose versus glucose consumption.
The research suggests fructose — a type of sugar commonly extracted from corn and found in sweetened products like soda — may activate brain pathways that increase your interest in food, whereas glucose ingestion appears to trigger your brain's satiation signal, effectively telling you "you've had enough." When participants ingested glucose and were then shown food pictures, their brains registered increased measures of satiety and fullness. The researchers noted:
"Glucose … ingestion reduced the activation of the hypothalamus, insula and striatum — brain regions that regulate appetite, motivation and reward processing; glucose ingestion also increased functional connections between the hypothalamic-striatal network and increased satiety."
In contrast, when the participants consumed fructose and were presented with images of food, more activity was noted in the orbitofrontal cortex, an area linked to increased motivation to seek out rewards, such as drugs or food.13
Subsequent research,14 presented in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, went a step further to investigate the effects of sugar on food-approach behavior. After ingesting either fructose or glucose, 24 volunteers underwent two fMRI sessions while viewing pictures of high-calorie foods and nonfood items in a block format.
After each block, participants were asked to rate their hunger and desire for food, as well as perform a decision task. The decision task involved choosing between an immediate food reward or a delayed monetary bonus. Hormone levels were measured at baseline and 30 and 60 minutes after the sugars were consumed. The authors of the study noted:
"Parallel to the neuroimaging findings, fructose versus glucose led to greater hunger and desire for food and a greater willingness to give up long-term monetary rewards to obtain immediate high-calorie foods. These findings suggest ingestion of fructose relative to glucose results in greater activation of brain regions involved in attention and reward processing, and may promote feeding behavior."
Both of these studies underscore the importance of paying attention to the type of sugars you consume. Clearly, fructose disrupts your brain's signaling mechanism that is designed to tell you when you've had enough. Because fructose fails to stimulate insulin, which in turn fails to suppress ghrelin, or "your hunger hormone," which then fails to stimulate leptin or "your satiety hormone," you are likely to eat more and develop insulin resistance when consuming fructose.
The second body of research seems to indicate fructose intake can influence you to act impulsively with respect to food, consuming more and more of it even when your body should have told you it's had enough. As you may imagine, continuing to consume large amounts of fructose will become increasingly problematic if you've already developed a bad habit of overeating.

Fructose Packs on the Pounds Faster Than Any Other Nutrient

Because fructose is often consumed in liquid form, mostly as HFCS, its negative metabolic effects are even further magnified. Energy drinks, fruit juices, soda and sports drinks, as well as countless other sweetened beverages, contain HFCS. Like all fructose, HFCS is metabolized as body fat far more rapidly than any other sugar.
Similar to alcohol, the entire burden of metabolizing fructose falls to your liver. This severely taxes and overloads it, introducing the possibility of liver damage. Fructose also promotes a particularly dangerous kind of body fat called adipose fat. This type of fat collects in your abdominal region and is associated with a greater risk of heart disease.
Although HFCS has about the same amount of fructose as cane sugar, it is in a "free" form that is not attached to any other carbs. In contrast, fructose in fruits and cane sugar is bonded to other sugars, resulting in a decrease in metabolic toxicity. Consuming foods containing high amounts of fructose — even if it's a natural product — is the fastest way to trash your health.  Among the health problems you invite when you consume high amounts of fructose are:
  • Arthritis, cancer, gout and heart disease
  • Insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, obesity and type 2 diabetes
  • Elevated blood pressure, LDL (bad) cholesterol, triglycerides and uric acid levels
  • Liver disease, especially non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
In addition, unbound fructose, found in large quantities in HFCS, can interfere with your heart's use of minerals like chromium, copper and magnesium. Furthermore, as you likely know, HFCS is most often made from genetically engineered corn, which is fraught with its own well-documented health concerns and side effects, many of which are linked to glyphosate or Roundup residues.

How to Manage and/or Limit Your Sugar Consumption

Sugar, in its natural form, is not inherently bad when consumed in amounts that allow you to burn fat as your primary fuel. However, you should avoid all sources of processed fructose, particularly processed foods and beverages like soda. According to SugarScience.org, 74 percent of processed foods purchased from the grocery store contain added sugar.15
Other sources have suggested it may be as high as 80 percent. I recommend your diet be composed chiefly of naturally occurring whole foods, with 10 percent or less coming from processed foods.
I also recommend severely limiting your consumption of refined carbohydrates found in cereal, bread, pasta and other grain-based foods, as they break down to sugar in your body, which increases your insulin levels and causes insulin resistance. As a general recommendation, I suggest you keep your total fructose consumption below 25 grams per day, including whole fruit. Keep in mind while fruits are rich in nutrients and antioxidants, they naturally contain fructose.
If consumed in high amounts (especially if you are not burning fat as your primary fuel), fructose from fruit worsens your insulin sensitivity and raises your uric acid levels. Also, be sure to avoid artificial sweeteners like aspartame and sucralose due to the health problems associated with them, which are worse than those associated with corn syrup and sugar. Below are some additional tips to help you manage and/or limit your sugar consumption:
Increase your consumption of healthy fats, such as omega-3, saturated and monounsaturated fats. Your body needs health-promoting fats from animal and plant sources for optimal functioning. In fact, emerging evidence suggests healthy fats should make up at least 60 to 85 percent of your daily calories.
Some of the best sources include avocadococonut oil, free-range eggs, organic butter from raw milk, raw nuts like macadamia and pecans, (unheated) virgin olive oil and wild Alaskan salmon.
Drink pure, clean water. Drinking pure water instead of sugary beverages like fruit juice and soda will go a long way toward improving your health. The best way to gauge your water needs is to observe the color of your urine — it should be light-pale yellow — and the frequency of your bathroom visits should be around seven to eight times per day.
Add fermented foods to your meals. The beneficial bacteria in fermented foods will aid your digestion and provide detoxification support, lessening the fructose burden on your liver. Some of the best choices include fermented vegetables, kefir made from grass fed milk, kimchi, natto and organic yogurt made from raw grass fed milk.
Use the Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT). Join Julie Schiffman in a short EFT-video session to tap your way free from a sugar addiction.