Tag Archives: diabetes

The Diabetes-Alzheimer’s Disease Link

Brain Buster and Booster

In The Gene Therapy Plan, you’ll find chapters dedicated to diabetes and aging. And although they are discussed separately in the book, health conditions hardly ever exist in isolation. For one, diabetes has been linked to other conditions like obesity, heart disease, cancer, and advanced aging. Data show that memory and cognition may also be affected by diabetes and that the damage may contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s disease (AD).

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia and it affects over 5 million Americans 65 years or older. The condition is often preceded by mild cognitive impairment (MCI). And as the disease progresses into Alzheimer’s, people with AD will experience increasing deterioration of their cognitive function and behavioral ability — to such a degree that it impairs their ability to carry out simple, everyday activities like getting dressed.

In an animal study published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation, researchers took a closer look at the link between diabetes and AD. The researchers induced a hyperglycemic state in young mice without beta-amyloid plaques (a proteinaceous plaque found in the brains of AD patients) and found that the plaque increased by 20 percent. When they repeated the experiment, this time using AD mice, the researchers found that the level of plaques doubled (40%).

Dr. Shannon Macauley, a postdoctoral research scholar and one of the lead authors in this study said, “Our results suggest that diabetes, or other conditions that make it hard to control blood sugar levels, can have harmful effects on brain function and exacerbate neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease. The link we’ve discovered could lead us to future treatment targets that reduce these effects.”

While further studies targeting the pathways and mechanisms involved between diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease may take years of research, the good news is we don’t have to wait that long for answers. We can’t deny the deleterious effects that poor glucose control has on overall health. Eating too many simple carbs and sugars are no good for our health. And because our brains main source of energy comes in the form of glucose, the type of sugars we eat has a huge impact on brain health.

So to prevent and treat diabetes, we can take control of what we eat and engage in physical activity to maintain a healthy weight and regulate blood glucose levels. Eat organic, wholesome foods that are nutrient-rich not calorie-poor like chicory, probiotics, brown rice, and organic lean meats. Chicory, for example, contains vanadium, a mineral, that helps to promote insulin sensitivity.

By eating healthful foods that keep us feeling fuller longer and are chock-full of health-promoting nutrients, we ensure that we don’t experience blood sugar spikes that are often associated with processed carbohydrates and refined sugars. 

Photo Credit: Positive thinker/Shutterstock.com


Macauley, Shannon L., Molly Stanley, Emily E. Caesar, Steven A. Yamada, Marcus E. Raichle, Ronaldo Perez, Thomas E. Mahan, Courtney L. Sutphen, and David M. Holtzman. “Hyperglycemia modulates extracellular amyloid-β concentrations and neuronal activity in vivo.” The Journal of Clinical Investigation

Low Levels of Vitamin D and Minerals Increase Insulin Resistance

Eggs Almonds Kale

 A study published in the Journal of Clinical Diagnostic Research compared the levels of vitamin D3, calcium, and magnesium in diabetic and nondiabetic patients. Researchers examined 30 diabetic patients and 30 matched controls. Glucose, insulin, and vitamin D3 levels were measured using fasting blood samples.1 Compared to vitamin D3 levels (19.55 ng/mL) found in healthy controls, levels (12.29 mg/mL) in the diabetic group were lower. In patients with diabetes, calcium and magnesium levels were low whereas fasting glucose and insulin levels and insulin resistance are high.

Higher insulin levels are expected in individuals with insulin resistance. When cells are insulin resistant, they become ineffective in transporting glucose molecules into cells. Because of this, there’s more glucose circulating in the blood. In the presence of elevated blood glucose, the beta cells of the pancreas work harder to release more insulin. Eventually, the pancreas becomes exhausted and is no longer able to pump out insulin.  Together, elevated blood glucose levels and ineffective pancreatic beta cells lead to type 2 diabetes. Circulating blood glucose levels are associated with many other chronic medical conditions like dementia, heart disease, obesity, and cancer.

Nutrients are required for various functions in cells. Calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D3 all play important roles in disease prevention and health. When it comes to type 2 diabetes, vitamin D, calcium, and magnesium have been associated with supporting glycemic control. The following table highlights the effects of these nutrients and their food sources:

Nutrient Effects on blood glucose control Dietary sources
Vitamin D Supports pancreatic beta cell activityBeta cells possess vitamin D receptors2Animal studies show that missing vitamin D receptors result in poor insulin secretion3 and vitamin D supplementation improves insulin secretion.4 The body’s main source of vitamin D is sunlight; however, with limited sunlight during the winter months in the northern hemisphere, dietary sources are needed to meet the daily requirement of vitamin D:

  • Fish—salmon, tuna, mackerel
  • Dairy—milk and cereal are fortified with vitamin D
  • Eggs
Calcium Insulin release requires calcium.5Patients with type 2 diabetes also have impaired intracellular calcium.6 Opt for soy milk and low-fat or fat-free yogurt and cheese.Many vegetables contain calcium: kale, broccoli, mustard greens, collards, cabbageEat nuts like almonds and Brazil nuts.
Magnesium People with type 2 diabetes tend to have low levels of  magnesium. Increasing magnesium levels protect against type 2 diabetes.7 Foods rich in magnesium include whole grains, nuts, and green leafy vegetables.

Refined sugars are a real threat to our health. Americans consume too much sugar, which leads to diseases like diabetes and heart disease. Chronic inflammation is associated with processed sugars that destroy healthy tissues and activates molecules in the body to promote disease. Poor diet, as well as lifestyle choices and environmental exposure, is linked to disease. And medications alone, simply, cannot change our health for the better. Medications mostly mask symptoms without addressing the underlying imbalances that cause disease. Eating foods that are nutrient-rich and contain bioactive molecules known to regulate glucose control is crucial to health and wellness. In my forthcoming book, The Gene Therapy Plan: Taking Control of Your Genetic Destiny with Diet and Lifestyle, I recommend foods that contain nutrients that balance glucose to prevent diabetes.



  1. Gandhe MB, Jain K, Gandhe SM. Evaluation of 25 (OH) Vitamin D3 with Reference to Magnesium Status and Insulin Resistance in T2DM. Journal of clinical and diagnostic research: JCDR. 2013;7(11):2438.
  2. Johnson JA, Grande JP, Roche PC, Kumar R. Immunohistochemical localization of the 1, 25 (OH) 2D3 receptor and calbindin D28k in human and rat pancreas. American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology and Metabolism. 1994;267(3):E356-E360.
  3. Zeitz U, Weber K, Soegiarto DW, Wolf E, Balling R, Erben RG. Impaired insulin secretory capacity in mice lacking a functional vitamin D receptor. The FASEB Journal. 2003;17(3):509-511.
  4. Clark SA, Stumpf WE, Sar M. Effect of 1, 25 dihydroxyvitamin D3 on insulin secretion. Diabetes. 1981;30(5):382-386.
  5. Milner R, Hales C. The role of calcium and magnesium in insulin secretion from rabbit pancreas studied in vitro. Diabetologia. 1967;3(1):47-49.
  6. Levy J. Abnormal cell calcium homeostasis in type 2 diabetes mellitus. Endocrine. 1999;10(1):1-6.
  7. Sales CH, Pedrosa LFC, Lima JG, Lemos TMAM, Colli C. Influence of magnesium status and magnesium intake on the blood glucose control in patients with type 2 diabetes. Clinical Nutrition. 2011;30(3):359-364.