If you thought avoiding butter and cream would make you thin, that is not the only thing you have got wrong. Research shows that high intake of unsaturated, unhydrogenated fats may actually help in preventing Alzheimer’s disease!
We still live in a fat-phobic world where a lot of people avoid eating fats, as opposed to avoiding carbohydrates in their diet. According to the Gallup Consumption Habits survey, conducted July 2010 and published in 2014, nearly 56% Americans avoid fats in their diet, as compared to 29% Americans who avoid carbohydrates. Not only is this philosophy detrimental to weight loss, proper insulin functioning and a healthy mind and body, in fact, eating less fat may also be increasing your risk to Alzheimer’s Disease.
Alzheimer’s and High Fats: What’s The Connection?
Alzheimer’s disease is growing at epidemic proportions and our fascination with low-fat dieting over the past few decades may have something to do with it. In fact, the Alzheimer’s Association estimates that 1 in every 10 people who are aged 65 or above in the USA have Alzheimer’s. Did you know that prior to 1960 there was almost no mention of the disease in the medical journals? Since the 1970s we have been in a low-fat craze. After low-fat diets became a popular recommendation in the 1970s, we shunned saturated fat and cholesterol from our diet….and the incidence of Alzheimer’s has skyrocketed. Why was this?
Fat is an essential element of the human brain. In fact, 60% of our brain consists of fat and cholesterol. Fat is essential for every single cell in the body; it provides the basic framework for our cells.
On the other hand, cholesterol is crucial to maintain structural support at a cellular level and also to regulate the entry and exit of hormones, fats, and proteins. Our body constantly needs fat and cholesterol to maintain, replace, and repair cells and tissues, which means that every cell in our body needs fat and cholesterol to function properly.
A number of studies have shown that cholesterol influences brain function — low blood cholesterol is associated with poor cognitive performance, whereas higher cholesterol levels appear to improve memory and cognitive skills and protect against neurodegenerative diseases (such as Alzheimer’s and dementia), especially as we age.
For example, researchers at Johns Hopkins University monitored a group of subjects over the age of 70 years for 18 years. This clinical trial revealed that those people with the highest blood cholesterol levels scored the highest on cognitive tests. These facts are supported by another clinical trial conducted at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, in New York to study elderly subjects without dementia. The researchers concluded that “high cholesterol is associated with better memory function.” Published in Journal of Biological Chemistry, a study conducted by Department of Pathology, University of North Carolina found evidence that dietary fat and cholesterol improve brain cholesterol status and helps protect against the formation of amyloid plaque, commonly found in the brains of patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. What’s more, this study also hinted that a low-fat diet can promote neurodegeneration.
Cholesterol Is Crucial For Brain Health
Cholesterol is crucial for optimal brain function.This cholesterol plays a vital role in membranes that surround all human cells, regulating essential functions at a cellular level. What’s more, it’s necessary to build as well as maintain the necessary levels of hormones like progesterone, estrogen, testosterone, cortisol, and even vitamin D.
So crucial is cholesterol that it’s manufactured in the liver and then sent to different parts of the body via blood. The human brain has higher cholesterol content than any other organ. It not only protects the cells of the brain, but also facilitates speedy transmission of the electrical impulses that govern thought, movement, and sensation. While brain is highly dependent on cholesterol, it has a unique cholesterol metabolism. The blood-brain barrier prevents brain cells from taking up cholesterol from the blood; hence the brain must produce its own cholesterol.
The human brain only accounts for 2-3% of total body weight, yet it contains 25% of the total cholesterol our body needs.
Data collected from clinical trials have both offered and contested the proposition that lowering plasma cholesterol by diet and medications increases suicide, homicide, and depression. A Finnish research also shows that risk of Alzheimer’s disease might be mediated through high serum cholesterol.
Other studies have found that high total cholesterol levels in late life associated with a reduced risk of dementia. Research has also associated better memory functioning with higher total and LDL cholesterol levels in elderly subjects, hence pointing us in the right direction – high cholesterol levels can reduce risk to Alzheimer’s.
The Reason Low-Fat Diets Fail
Low-fat diets automatically become either high-carb diets. In order to be able to sustain on lower amounts of dietary fats, you will have to increase your carbohydrate intake so your body has the fuel it needs. Unfortunately, most low-fat dressings, sauces and baked goods are also high in sugar to make them more palatable. You may not even realize this because you think you’re eating healthy adding whole grains and salads to your diet, but technically, a low-fat diet becomes a high-carb and high-sugar diet.
And no, don’t think that if you go high-protein instead of high-carbs, you can avoid adding more healthy fats to your diet. Both high-carb and high-protein diets leach fat soluble vitamins from the liver. So when the diet does not have enough good fats, and you eat these proteins and carbs, you will become vitamin A deficient.
The pathological process that leads to insulin resistance or type 2 Diabetes can also be held responsible for cognitive decline. As you over-indulge on sugar and grains, your brain becomes overwhelmed by the consistently high levels of insulin and eventually shuts down its insulin signaling, which causes impaired thinking and memory abilities.
There is another angle to the Alzheimer’s epidemic – IDE or Insulin-Degrading Enzyme. In addition to insulin, IDE represents a pathophysiological link between type 2 diabetes and late onset Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s is sometime called Type 3 Diabetes, and for good reason. Glucose management, the hallmark of diabetes, is severely disrupted in Alzheimer’s patients.
We highly recommend the LCHF or Low-Carb-High-Fat diet to reverse diabetes, and we recommend the same to reduce risk of Alzheimer’s disease as well. After all, Diabetes Type 2 and Alzheimer’s disease are deeply connected to each other and decline in cognitive function.
Eating Fat, Fighting Alzheimer’s
The notion that eating saturated fats causes heart disease as well as cancer has been proven wrong. In fact, polyunsaturated fat intake is inversely associated with Coronary Heart Disease risk. But it is true that some fats are bad for us — we’re talking about triglycerides here. Elevated triglycerides in the blood can increase risk of coronary heart disease. But did you know that triglycerides do not come directly from dietary fats; they are made in the liver from any excess sugars that have not been used for energy? And yes, as you can already guess, these excess sugars come from eating simple carbohydrates, like refined sugar and white flour.
What you need to choose is healthy saturated fats, like those found in extra-virgin olive oil, avocados, oily fish, nuts, coconut oil and grass-fed butter. And no, these saturated fats will NOT CAUSE heart disease.
Dr. Bruce Fife, ND who is the author of ‘Stop Alzheimer’s Now!’ particularly loves Coconut Oil. He regularly uses coconut oil in his treatment because the unique “ketones” and medium-chain fatty acids found in coconut oil are amongst those few dietary fats that can cross the blood-brain barrier. Dr. Fife believes that cooking with coconut oil can ease inflammation, fight oxidative stress, and reverse disturbed glucose metabolism and excitotoxicity.
Dr. Bruce Fife is not alone in this belief. In fact, Dr. Weston Price (of the famed Weston A. Price Foundation) found that butter is a staple in many native diets where obesity, Diabetes and Alzheimer’s are not prevalent. The groups he studied particularly valued the deep yellow butter produced by cows feeding on rapidly growing green grass. This grass-fed butter is exceptionally high in all fat-soluble vitamins, particularly vitamin A. Adding more butter to your diet ensures proper assimilation of the minerals and water-soluble vitamins in vegetables, grains and meat.
The Bottom Line
It’s possible that Alzheimer’s disease stems from a diet and lifestyle at odds with what our evolutionary history has prepared us for. This is why, returning to a more “primitive” type diet rich in healthy fats found in nature could likely offer protection against risk of Alzheimer’s disease.