Is Alzheimers Disease Type 3 Diabetes ?

THE human brain evolved to seek out foods high in fat and sugar. But a preference that started out as a survival mechanism has, in our age of plenty, become a self-destructive compulsion.

It is well known that bad diets can trigger obesity and diabetes. There is growing evidence that they trigger Alzheimer’s disease too, and some researchers now see it as just another form of diabetes.

If correct, this has enormous, and grave, implications. The world already faces an epidemic of diabetes. The prospect of a parallel epidemic of Alzheimer’s is truly frightening, in terms of human suffering and monetary cost.

This outcome will not be easily averted. Few people need to be told that too much high-fat, high-sugar food is a health hazard. And yet sales of fast food remain healthy (or should that be hefty?). Part of the reason is “future discounting”, another evolved feature of the human brain that makes us value short-term rewards over long-term risks.

What can be done? One option is to call in the lawyers. Some moderately successful attempts have already been made to sue food companies for their role in creating the obesity epidemic. If a causal link between fatty, sugary food and Alzheimer’s can be established, it is highly likely that more lawsuits will follow. Such actions have their place, but this is a laborious and expensive way to enact change.

Nor do the policy levers at our disposal appear promising. Public awareness campaigns have been of limited use in reversing the tide of obesity. Will the added threat of dementia prove harder to ignore? “Sin taxes” on unhealthy foods may work – Denmark and a handful of other countries are experimenting with them – but it is not yet clear whether they make any real difference. What’s more, they raise questions about personal responsibility and nanny-statism.

We may be left with only the option of medically blocking either the craving for fast food, or its consequences. That has its own complications, and sidesteps the problem rather than addressing it. But the human brain also evolved to find ingenious solutions to intractable problems. It may yet come to its own rescue. Continue reading Is Alzheimers Disease Type 3 Diabetes ?

The Brains Drain System

The brain drain is real. There is a network of previously unrecognised vessels that rid the brain of unwanted extracellular fluids and other substances, including amyloid-beta – a peptide that accumulates in the brain of people with Alzheimer’s. The new discovery looks set to add to our understanding of the disease.

Jeffrey Iliff at the University of Rochester Medical Centre, New York, and his colleagues, were intrigued by the fact that there are no obvious lymphatic vessels in the brain. Among other things, the lymphatic system removes waste interstitial fluids from body tissue.

“It seemed strange that such an important and active organ wouldn’t have a specialised waste-removal system,” says Iliff.

When the researchers added fluorescent and radioactive tracers to the cerebrospinal fluid of live mice, the tracers quickly spread throughout the rodents’ brains. Using two-photon microscopy to visualise the movement in real-time, the team saw cerebrospinal fluid permeating the entire brain through ‘pipes’ surrounding blood vessels, similar to the lymphatic system that services all other organs.

The pipes work on hydraulic principles, though, and so the system breaks upon opening, making it hard to identify it outside living organisms. Continue reading The Brains Drain System

Exercise – Probably the best Medicine of all

From dementia and diabetes to high blood pressure – no pill protects us against ill health like exercise does.

A plethora of recent studies shows that exercise protects us from heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, obesity, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and depression. It even boosts memory. And it has the potential to prevent more premature deaths than any other single treatment, with none of the side effects of actual medication. “It’s a wonder drug,” says Erik Richter, a diabetes researcher at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark. “There’s probably not a single organ in the body that’s unaffected by it.”

Throughout evolution, humans have been active. Our ancestors chased prey as hunter-gatherers and fled from predators. More recently, they laboured on farms and in factories. But the decline of agricultural and industrial labour, plus the invention of the car, a multitude of labour-saving devices and – most perniciously – TV, computers and video games, mean we’ve all ground to a sudden and catastrophic standstill.

“We were built to be active, but the way our environment has changed and the way we live our lives has led us to become inactive,” says Christopher Hughes, senior lecturer in sport and exercise medicine at Queen Mary, University of London. Continue reading Exercise – Probably the best Medicine of all

Whiplash Injuries & Trigger Points

Persistent muscle pain following whiplash is commonly considered the result of poor psychosocial status, illness behaviour, or failing coping skills. However, there is much evidence that this persistent  pain may be due to neurophysiologic mechanisms involving peripheral and central nerve sensitisation. Myofascial trigger points may play a crucial role in maintaing this sensitisation. Recent research suggests that the chemical environment of myofascial trigger points is an important factor. Several consequences are reviewed when central pain mechanisms and myofascial trigger points are included in the differential diagnosis and in the management of patients with persistent pain following whiplash. Continue reading Whiplash Injuries & Trigger Points

Antibiotic use in Babies linked to Obesity later in Life

Giving antibiotics to young babies may increase their weight later in life, according to US researchers.

A study of 11,532 infants, published in the International Journal of Obesity, showed children under six months who were given antibiotics were heavier in later years.

Researchers say the drugs could be affecting bacteria in the gut, leading to weight changes.

However, they say more work is needed to confirm there is a link.

Bacteria living on people greatly outnumber the body’s own cells and there is a growing interest in how this “microbiome” affects human health. In extreme circumstances there are even examples of doctors transplanting faecal matter in order to introduce healthy bacteria into the gut, treating infections when other methods have failed.

In this study, children who had antibiotics between birth and the age of five months were slightly heavier between the age of 10 and 20 months. After 38 months they were 22% more likely to be overweight.

One of the researchers, Dr Leonardo Trasande from New York University School of Medicine, said: “We typically consider obesity an epidemic grounded in unhealthy diet and exercise, yet increasingly studies suggest it’s more complicated.”

“Microbes in our intestines may play critical roles in how we absorb calories, and exposure to antibiotics, especially early in life, may kill off healthy bacteria that influence how we absorb nutrients into our bodies, and would otherwise keep us lean.”

Microbiologist Dr Cormac Gahan, from University College Cork, said there was certainly a lot of interest in the area, “but it is very early stages for this type of work”.

He said changing gut bacteria could alter weight by “a direct effect on energy extraction” or by “influencing hormones”.

Michael Mosley on intermittent Fasting

Scientists are uncovering evidence that short periods of fasting, if properly controlled, could achieve a number of health benefits, as well as potentially helping the overweight, as Michael Mosley discovered.

I’d always thought of fasting as something unpleasant, with no obvious long term benefits. So when I was asked to make a documentary that would involve me going without food, I was not keen as I was sure I would not enjoy it.

But the Horizon editor assured me there was great new science and that I might see some dramatic improvements to my body. So, of course, I said, “yes”.

I am not strong-willed enough to diet over the long term, but I am extremely interested in the reasons why eating less might lead to increased life span, particularly as scientists think it may be possible to get the benefits without the pain.

How you age is powerfully shaped by your genes. But there’s not much you can do about that.

Calorie restriction, eating well but not much, is one of the few things that has been shown to extend life expectancy, at least in animals. We’ve known since the 1930s that mice put on a low-calorie, nutrient-rich diet live far longer. There is mounting evidence that the same is true in monkeys. Continue reading Michael Mosley on intermittent Fasting

Pain really is “All in the Mind”

Doctors and nurses have known for many years that some people are more sensitive to pain than others. Now brain scans of people experiencing the same painful stimulus have provided the first proof that this is so. But the scans also suggest that how much something hurts really is “all in the mind”.

“We saw a huge variation between responses to the same stimulus,” says project leader Bob Coghill of the Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. “The message is: trust what patients are telling you.” Continue reading Pain really is “All in the Mind”