New Study: Aspartame May Play a Role in Alzheimer’s
Studies are beginning to confirm lingering suspicions that aspartame may play a role in Alzheimer’s. The key mechanism of harm appears to be methanol toxicity—a much-ignored problem associated with this artificial sweetener in particular. In recent research, methanol-fed mice displayed partial “Alzheimer’s disease-like symptoms,” and rhesus monkeys fed methanol developed persistent pathological changes related to the development of Alzheimer’s.
Humans are the only mammals who are NOT equipped with a protective biological mechanism that breaks down methanol into harmless formic acid. This is why animal testing of aspartame does not fully apply to humans. Since there is no conventional cure, the issue of prevention is absolutely critical if you want to avoid becoming an Alzheimer’s statistic. The remainder of this article will cover diet and lifestyle strategies for optimizing brain health, as well as tips for increasing your success in quitting smoking.
I. Alzheimer’s Prevention Strategies: Diet
- Avoid sugar and refined fructose. Ideally, you’ll want to keep your sugar levels to a minimum and your total fructose below 25 grams per day, or as low as 15 grams per day if you have insulin/leptin resistance or any related disorders.
- Avoid gluten and casein (primarily wheat and pasteurized dairy, but not dairy fat, such as butter). Research shows that your blood-brain barrier is negatively affected by gluten. Gluten also makes your gut more permeable, which allows proteins to get into your bloodstream, where they don’t belong. That then sensitizes your immune system and promotes inflammation and autoimmunity, both of which play a role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease For more on this topic, please listen to my 2013 interview with Dr. David Perlmutter, included above, author of New York Times Bestseller Grain Brain.
- Optimize your gut flora by regularly eating fermented foods or taking a high-potency and high-quality probiotic supplement.
- Increase consumption of all healthful fats, including animal-based omega-3. Health-promoting fats that your brain needs for optimal function include organic butter from raw milk, clarified butter called ghee, organic grass-fed raw butter, olives, organic virgin olive oil and coconut oil, nuts like pecans and macadamia, free-range eggs, wild Alaskan salmon, and avocado. Also make sure you’re getting enough animal-based omega-3 fats, such as krill oil. (I recommend avoiding most fish because, although fish is naturally high in omega-3, most fish are now severely contaminated with mercury.) High intake of the omega-3 fats EPA and DHA help by preventing cell damage caused by Alzheimer’s disease, thereby slowing down its progression, and lowering your risk of developing the disorder.
- Reduce your overall calorie consumption, and/or intermittently fast. Ketones are mobilized when you replace carbs with coconut oil and other sources of healthy fats. Intermittent fasting is a powerful tool to jumpstart your body into remembering how to burn fat and repair the insulin/leptin resistance that is also a primary contributing factor for Alzheimer’s.
- Improve your magnesium levels. There is some exciting preliminary research strongly suggesting a decrease in Alzheimer symptoms with increased levels of magnesium in the brain. Unfortunately most magnesium supplements do not pass the blood brain levels, but a new one, magnesium threonate, appears to and holds some promise for the future for treating this condition and may be superior to other forms.
- Eat a nutritious diet rich in folate. Vegetables, without question, are your best form of folate, and we should all eat plenty of fresh raw veggies every day. Avoid supplements like folic acid, which is the inferior synthetic version of folate.
II. Alzheimer’s Prevention Strategies: Lifestyle
Besides diet, there are a number of other lifestyle factors that can contribute to or impede neurological health. The following strategies are therefore also important for any Alzheimer’s prevention plan:
- Exercise regularly. It’s been suggested that exercise can trigger a change in the way the amyloid precursor protein is metabolized,8 thus, slowing down the onset and progression of Alzheimer’s. Exercise also increases levels of the protein PGC-1alpha. Research has shown that people with Alzheimer’s have less PGC-1alpha in their brains9—and cells that contain more of the protein produce less of the toxic amyloid protein associated with Alzheimer’s.
- Optimize your vitamin D levels with safe sun exposure. Strong links between low levels of vitamin D in Alzheimer’s patients and poor outcomes on cognitive tests have been revealed. Researchers believe that optimal vitamin D levels may enhance the amount of important chemicals in your brain and protect brain cells by increasing the effectiveness of the glial cells in nursing damaged neurons back to health. Vitamin D may also exert some of its beneficial effects on Alzheimer’s through its anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties. Sufficient vitamin D is imperative for proper functioning of your immune system to combat inflammation that is also associated with Alzheimer’s.
- Avoid and eliminate mercury from your body. Dental amalgam fillings, which are 50 percent mercury by weight, are one of the major sources of heavy metal toxicity. However, you should be healthy prior to having them removed. Once you have adjusted to following the diet described in my optimized nutrition plan, you can follow the mercury detox protocol and then find a biological dentist to have your amalgams removed.
- Avoid and eliminate aluminum from your body: Sources of aluminum include antiperspirants, non-stick cookware, vaccine adjuvants, etc.
- Avoid flu vaccinations as most contain both mercury and aluminum, well-known neurotoxic and immunotoxic agents.
- Avoid anticholinergics and statin drugs. Drugs that block acetylcholine, a nervous system neurotransmitter, have been shown to increase your risk of dementia. These drugs include certain nighttime pain relievers, antihistamines, sleep aids, certain antidepressants, medications to control incontinence, and certain narcotic pain relievers. Statin drugsare particularly problematic because they suppress the synthesis of cholesterol, deplete your brain of coenzyme Q10 and neurotransmitter precursors, and prevent adequate delivery of essential fatty acids and fat-soluble antioxidants to your brain by inhibiting the production of the indispensable carrier biomolecule known as low-density lipoprotein.
- Challenge your mind daily. Mental stimulation, especially learning something new, such as learning to play an instrument or a new language, is associated with a decreased risk of Alzheimer’s. Researchers suspect that mental challenge helps to build up your brain, making it less susceptible to the lesions associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
- Manage stress. Recent research shows that stress may be related to the onset of Alzheimer’s disease by triggering a degenerative process in your brain. Researchers found that nearly three out of four Alzheimer’s patients had experienced severe emotional stress during the two years preceding their diagnosis, compared to just over one in four in the control group. One of the keys is to find a healthy emotional outlet. Many people use exercise, meditation, or relaxation techniques for this, and these are all great.