Insulin resistance is affecting more Americans than ever. Insulin resistance contributes to several chronic conditions such as type 2 diabetes, obesity, generalized inflammation, and atherosclerosis. In addition, more research is shedding light on the role insulin resistance plays in developing Alzheimer’s disease.
There are many risk factors for developing insulin resistance which can feel overwhelming and unavoidable. The good news is, several of these risk factors are modifiable. Discovering ways to help combat insulin resistance to help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease – or even reverse effects – brings new life to current treatments.
Dr. Dale Bredesen of the Buck Institute for Research on Aging has developed the ReCODE protocol to help those with Alzheimer’s fight back – and one piece of the treatment puzzle is reversing insulin resistance.
What is Insulin and Insulin Resistance?
Before we can explain how insulin resistance affects your brain in the progression of Alzheimer’s, we must first explain exactly what is insulin, and how you can develop insulin resistance.
Insulin is an important hormone your body uses to regulate blood glucose. After eating simple carbohydrates such as sugar, your body breaks it down into glucose. This triggers your pancreas to release insulin. Insulin helps guide glucose into the cells so it can be stored and used as energy.
If you have excess glucose, your pancreas responds by increasing insulin production. Over time, your body gets used to the excess insulin release and can become resistant to its effects, hence the term insulin resistance.
Insulin resistance increases your risk of developing obesity, prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.
Certain risk factors can increase your chance of developing insulin resistance, such as:
- Lack of physical activity
- High stress
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
Most people don’t see symptoms of insulin resistance occurring until they develop symptoms of diabetes – fatigue, brain fog, frequent urination, and excessive thirst. However, there are blood tests available to check your glucose levels (such as hemoglobin A1c) to see how well your body is regulating glucose.
The Damaging Effects of Insulin Resistance
Insulin is the gatekeeper to move glucose from your bloodstream into your cells for energy. Once your body becomes resistant to insulin, glucose will find other places to go – including attaching to certain proteins. This can change the appearance of the protein, making it difficult for your body to recognize.
When your body can’t identify something roaming around within it – an immune response occurs to fight the unknown invader. This causes your body to make antibodies to fight your own cells.
When glucose attaches to other cells, altering their characteristics, they’re called advanced glycation end products, or AGE products. AGE products not only make certain protein cells unrecognizable, but they can also cause free radicals to form. Free radicals damage DNA and cell membranes, which can put you at risk for Alzheimer’s disease.
Insulin Resistance and Alzheimer’s Disease
Insulin resistance and AGE products can contribute to several chronic conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease, but new research is showing how insulin resistance and Alzheimer’s disease are connected.
AGE products can damage blood vessels, in turn interfering with how well your brain receives nutritional support.
Another major way in which insulin resistance contributes to cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease has to do with how insulin is broken down. Insulin must be broken down to prevent your blood sugar from dropping too much.
Insulin-degrading enzyme (IDE) is an enzyme which breaks down several targets:
- Atrial natriuretic peptide
- Beta-amyloid peptide
IDE can’t break down all of these structures at the same time.
In someone with adequate insulin sensitivity, there is a balance of these structures and IDE can properly break down each one effectively. If IDE is busy breaking down an excess of insulin in someone who is insulin resistant, a buildup of amyloid can occur.
Amyloid is the key component of the plaques which destroy the synapses in someone’s brain with Alzheimer’s disease.
An increase in amyloid can occur if you’re insulin resistant, which is why evaluating and addressing your insulin resistance is so important. Restoring insulin sensitivity is paramount in preventing and treating Alzheimer’s disease.
How the Bredesen ReCODE Protocol Restores Insulin Sensitivity
Now that the research shows the connection between insulin resistance and Alzheimer’s disease, we can find better ways to combat it.
Restoring metabolic balance is a key part of the ReCODE protocol – starting with insulin sensitivity. Insulin resistance can potentially lead to memory impairment and may contribute to neurodegenerative disease development, such as Alzheimer’s.
Although there are several risks for developing insulin resistance – there are just as many ways to treat and reverse insulin resistance. Using Dr. Bredesen’s ReCODE protocol helps you reduce insulin resistance, reduce blood glucose levels, and restore your insulin sensitivity.
A collaborative approach consisting of lifestyle modifications, supplements and occasionally medications help reverse insulin resistance (Bredesen, 2017).
Dr. Bredesen’s ReCODE Protocol utilizes a diet called the Ketoflex 12/3 which focuses on four major areas:
- Promoting mild ketosis
- Eating a largely plant-based diet
- Fasting (12-hour nightly fast and a minimum of a 3-hour fast before bedtime)
- Preventing leaky gut and optimizing microbiome
Foods to limit with the Ketoflex 12/3 diet include:
- High glycemic foods
- Fruit juices
- Simple carbohydrates (refined breads, crackers, pastries)
- Saturated Fats
- Processed foods
- Large amounts of meat and animal products
Foods to increase with the Ketoflex 12/3 diet include:
- Detoxifying plants such as cilantro, cruciferous vegetables, cabbage, avocados, garlic
- Whole foods
- Probiotics and prebiotics
- Good fats such as cold pressed extra virgin olive oil, avocado, avocado oil, coconut oil, MCT oil
- Digestive enzymes
- Various herbs and supplements
In addition to diet, focusing on increasing physical activity, optimizing sleep, and stress reduction are important factors in restoring insulin resistance (Bredesen, 2017).
Functional Medicine Doctors Utilizing Bredesen’s ReCODE in the Kansas City Area
Dr. Paul Reicherter with Jellison Integrative MD is certified in the Bredesen Protocol. Dr. Reicherter or Dr. Jellison can determine if you have insulin resistance or are at risk for developing it, in an effort to reduce your potential risk for cognitive decline. While there are many risks of insulin resistance, there are many ways you can take control.
If you are in the Kansas City area, Dr. Paul Reicherter or DR. Jessica Jellison at Jellison Integrative MD can help. Please contact our office today or call (913) 568-0608 to schedule an appointment.