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Carnivore for Alzheimer’s Prevention – A No Brainer

Globally, every three minutes, someone develops dementia. By 2050, an estimated 152 million people will have dementia. So chances are you know someone – a parent, grandparent, or friend – has as suffered from this horrible disease as well. But contrary to popular belief, Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) is not a normal part of aging. It can be prevented. The key is to take action as soon as possible since it’s thought that AD begins 20 years or more before symptoms arise. Keep reading to learn more about the causes of dementia and the choices you can make to avoid this terrible disease.

What is Alzheimer’s Disease?

AD is a progressive neurodegenerative disease characterized by the progressive decline of memory, cognitive functions, and changes in behavior and personality. Sadly, AD is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States and the 5th leading cause of death for those aged 65 and older. AD is the most common type of dementia, a category of mental impairment that also includes cerebrovascular disease (vascular dementia) and Lewy body dementia.

What are the Risk Factors for Dementia?

Dementia can be prevented and, in some cases, early symptoms can be reversed. Risk factors for dementia can be categorized into modifiable and non-modifiable. Non-modifiable risk factors include age, genetics, gender (women are more likely to have Alzheimer’s), and a positive family history of dementia since more than one-third of AD patients have one or more affected first-degree relatives.

The good news is that there are modifiable risk factors – areas where our choices can mitigate dementia. Modifiable risk factors include avoiding smoking, head injury, environmental factors, and metabolic syndrome (MetSys), one of the fundamental causes of dementia. MetSys is a signal that the body is not properly handling carbohydrates and is, therefore, a risk factor for obesity, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension. Treating MetSys minimizes the risk of Alzheimer’s and other dementias in 40% of the population.

Alzheimer’s Dementia is a Metabolic Issue

While the cause of AD is multifactorial, with both genetic and environmental factors implicated in its pathogenesis, AD is arguably a metabolic issue that stems from the brain’s inability to harness energy from glucose. In addition to these lifestyle choices, we can modify (lower) our risk of AD through dietary choices.

The brain is an energy-hungry organ. Although it only typically accounts for 2% of body weight, it can require up to 20% of the body’s glucose and oxygen. That’s why adequate fuel delivery is so important. Compared to healthy people, those with AD have been found with up to a 45% reduction in the cerebral metabolic rate of glucose or CMRglu. This results in reduced fuel usage by brain regions responsible for memory processing and learning. Because areas of the brain dedicated to visual and sensorimotor processing are unaffected, it can be difficult to notice changes, even though the risk of developing AD is present. A decline in glucose metabolism can be detected decades before overt symptoms.

Type 2 v Type 3 Diabetes

You may have heard the terms “Type 3 diabetes” or “diabetes of the brain” because similar to Type 2 diabetes, the brain becomes incapable of adequately metabolizing glucose due to insulin resistance (or insulin insensitivity). Without adequate fuel, neurons in regions of the brain start to degenerate. Degraded neurons eventually become incapable of communicating, leading to symptoms associated with AD such as confusion, cognitive decline, and behavioral changes.

Type 2 and Type 3 diabetes are related in that they may have the same primary underlying cause of insulin resistance, but they are not the same. An individual does not need to be diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in order to develop Type 3 or AD. In fact, many people with AD have normal blood glucose levels and are not diagnosed with diabetes. The key factor is, therefore, not glucose, but insulin resistance, a reduction in the body’s sensitivity to insulin, and hyperinsulinemia (elevated levels of insulin in the bloodstream for extended periods of time.) These disturbances lead to inflammation and oxidative stress, an imbalance of free radicals which can create damage to the cells and tissue in the body. While Type 2 diabetes affects muscles, organs, and the rest of the body aside from the brain and central nervous system, damage from AD is localized to the brain.

Insulin and Beta-amyloid Plaques

Interestingly, insulin also plays a crucial role in the formation of amyloid plaques, protein fragments that accumulate in the brain. While these plaques are found in healthy brains, in AD patients, beta-amyloid plaques accumulate to an unhealthy level, interfering with cell communication. Aside from reduced glucose utilization, beta-amyloid plaques are one of the defining features of AD.

One theory as to why these plaques accumulate in the AD brain is that they are not broken down and cleared away as they should be. Beta-amyloid plaques are primarily cleared with insulin-degrading enzyme, the same enzyme the body uses to clear insulin once insulin has done its job. Because the enzyme prefers insulin to beta-amyloid plaques, it works on clearing insulin first, leaving plaques to accumulate. Chronically-elevated insulin levels lead to more plaque build-up. And the more it builds up without being cleared, the more likely it is to form plaques that interfere with neuronal communication.

The Importance of Early Alzheimer’s Disease Prevention

This article cannot overstate the importance of AD prevention. AD begins with small changes in the brain that are initially unnoticeable to the person affected. Only after years of brain changes do individuals experience noticeable symptoms, at which point disease reversal may be too late. While there is no cure for AD, it can be prevented through dietary and lifestyle interventions. Consider prevention a lifelong concern. Waiting for an AD diagnosis may be too late – the brain may have already suffered too much damage.

Dietary Changes for AD Prevention

Carbohydrate restriction by way of a carnivore, keto, or ketosis-inducing diet is one of the first steps we can take to begin to ease the metabolic dysfunction that causes AD. If the brain has become incapable of properly metabolizing glucose, then a low or no-carbohydrate diet utilizing another fuel source can help correct abnormalities. This alternate fuel source – ketones – are generated when the body switches from metabolizing carbohydrates to metabolizing fat. In a low insulin environment, the body will produce ketones, a product of fat burning, to provide the brain with nourishment.

“The therapeutic and neuroprotective effects of ketones are so impressive, in fact, that one of the premier researchers studying ketones and brain health has suggested that a drawback of the modern, carbohydrate-heavy diet is that is it ‘keto-deficient.’” 

The Alzheimer’s Antidote

While the causes of AD are multifactorial, dietary changes can play a significant role in preventing or even reversing AD symptoms. The price of poor brain health is too high to delay starting to pay attention today. To learn more about Alzheimer’s prevention using a low-carb diet, please refer to Amy Berger’s book, The Alzheimer’s Antidote.

Written by Laura Guy
I dedicate this article to my father, Stuart. I love my father dearly and have watched him transition from an ambitious, independent man to an immobile and totally dependent man with very little speech capacity. Sadly, he has experienced very little quality of life over the past 11 years due to the degenerative effects of dementia, a disease for which there is no cure.

Switching to a Healthier, Meat-based You

We’re now ready to discuss some detail about common strategies to transition into the diet. There are pros and cons to these methods, and no solution is going to fit everyone. Your starting diet may help dictate which method you want to pursue.

 

Hard-Core Carnivore

This method is pretty much a direct drop into the purest form of the diet. If you go hard-core carnivore, you go straight to meat and water all the time right from the get-go. Many long-term carnivores recommend using this technique, which is analogous to removing a bandage by quickly ripping it off. There might be more discomfort in the short term, but the overall process often is quicker than easing into the diet.

With this method, on day one, you start eating nothing but meat and drinking nothing but water, and you repeat until you’ve adapted. This approach works best for very motivated individuals and those who are transitioning from a mostly animal-based ketogenic diet (because they’re already pretty well accustomed to fueling on fat). The downside of this cold turkey approach for many people is that the symptoms associated with the transition can be more severe than with a more gradual switch. Consequently, some people quit because the transition is too difficult.

 

Carb Step-Down Strategies

If you’re coming from a carbohydrate-heavy background, a good strategy may be to first adopt a lower-carbohydrate diet for at least several weeks before transitioning to a full carnivore diet.

If you’ve been on a standard American diet, which is high in carbohydrates, and you’ve been taking medications to address high blood pressure, diabetes, chronic pain, or depression, you should visit with your physician to discuss potential medication changes that might need to occur as you shift your diet. I’ll use blood pressure medication as an example: Many people find that medications to treat blood pressure can lead to dangerously low blood pressure as your body adapts because the diet can normalize blood pressure. The result is that the medication becomes unnecessary or needs to be reduced. The body can make similar adjustments for the other types of ailments, and it’s important that you and your doctor make corrections to your medication as necessary.

For some people, a good transition strategy is to include more meat-based meals gradually over time. One example schedule is to spread three fully meat-based meals throughout the first week. The next week bump up to eight carnivore meals. In the third week, try two days of only meat-based meals, and spread ten carnivore meals on the other days. In the fourth week, you should be able to handle five days of carnivore meals, and by the fifth week, all but two of your meals will be meat. In week six, your transition to full carnivore will be complete.

Alternatively, you could set short-term challenges to go full carnivore three days out of a week. The next challenge is to go one full week of eating only meat. The third challenge is to go for two weeks; finally, you attempt to go carnivore for thirty days in a row. This method is pretty much what I used, and it was a fairly smooth process.

The third technique for a gradual transition is to fade the vegetables and starch off your plate as you increase the amount of meat you eat each day. A drawback to these gradual techniques is that for some time, you still have access to addictive or otherwise problematic food, which may make it harder for you to let go of those things. It’s kind of like having an alcoholic quit drinking by only having alcohol twice a week.

However, as long as you continue moving closer to a fully carnivore diet, you will likely feel better, and those cravings will subside over time. Also, the gradual withdrawal of fiber- or oxalate-rich foods might make the transition easier. By gradually reducing fiber from your diet, your colon may better adapt to being able to absorb fluid and minerals efficiently. Gradually tapering from oxalate-rich foods may help you avoid a potential rapid precipitation of oxalate crystals into your joints, skin, or other tissues.

 

The Beginner Phase

How long does the beginner phase last? It can vary, but here are some signs that identify you as an experienced carnivore rather than a beginner:

  • Food no longer rules you, and you no longer see food as a form of entertainment. Instead, it’s a deeply satisfying form of nutrition.
  • You have no problem passing up a food that was previously one of your favorites.
  • You can go out socially and not cave to pressure to eat something just to satisfy someone else.
  • Nothing other than meat seems like food.

For some people, these signs are evident within a few months. Other people need years to reach all these milestones.

 

Excerpted from The Carnivore Diet, By Dr. Shawn Baker.
Learn more HERE

Lose Weight Now! (or not)

Obesity is probably my least favorite subject to talk about, not because it’s so contentious but because, in my opinion, it’s misunderstood. Before I talk about the mechanisms by which a carnivore diet can help people to lose weight, let me explain why I think that we misunderstand obesity.
In my view, the core problem of obesity is malnutrition. We all can point to starving children who are woefully thin and agree that they’re malnourished, but when we look at a morbidly obese person, malnourishment doesn’t immediately spring to mind. If we look past the myriad metabolic enzymes and hormonal interactions that are constantly shifting and the issues of calorie balance and brain chemistry, we can focus on the simple fact that if the body doesn’t receive proper nourishment, problems will ensue with all bodily systems.
The obese are often calorie replete but nutrient starved. If you feed yourself low-quality carbohydrates that are rich in energy but low in nutrients (micronutrients, essential fats, and amino acids), you won’t be satisfied. Your hunger won’t be appeased, and you’ll eventually fall prey to cravings for more and more food. If you continue consuming low-quality food, which is about 90 percent of what is currently available, you’ll eat more and more calories and continue to suffer from what become irresistible cravings. Over time, you end up with a metabolism that doesn’t work very well, a hormonal system that’s suboptimal, and a severe case of carbohydrate addiction.
Many people don’t believe that food is addictive, but we have ample evidence to show that certain foods stimulate the brain in ways very similar to other known addictive recreational or prescription drugs. People often mask that addiction by claiming they are “foodies” or by becoming prolific exercisers to offset the food addiction. The common platitude of “all things in moderation” is often just an excuse to get a little bit of addictive food down the gullet.
Do people lose weight because they cut calories on the carnivore diet? Yes, for some people that certainly is what occurs. Meat tends to be pretty darn satisfying and satiating to most people. Many people struggle to eat much meat, particularly when they first start the carnivore diet, and they definitely lose weight. Often, early weight loss is due to water weight coming off, particularly if a person is switching from a high-carbohydrate diet. Carbohydrates stimulate insulin to the greatest degree, which leads the kidneys to hang on to fluid that is often stored with glycogen.
Some people swear that on a carnivore diet, they eat far more than they did before, but they still lost weight. Perhaps dramatically increasing protein plays a role because protein is extremely difficult to turn into body fat, and numerous protein overfeeding studies confirm this. Is it possible that a shift in hormones due to a different food substrate plays a role either in impacting satiety or upregulating metabolic rate? Certainly, this is a hotly debated topic, and I don’t pretend to know conclusively what the answer is. I know that my body handles energy expenditure in ways I have no voluntary control over. How much heat I produce is dependent upon the environment I’m in, the activity I’m engaged in, and perhaps the fuel I’m using.
Many people report feeling more energized on the carnivore diet as aches and pains go away, and often they feel the desire to move a bit more often. Ultimately, I don’t think the exact mechanism much matters in the grand scheme of things. When we get our bodies the correct nourishment, our health starts to thrive, and that is where the prize lies.

Excerpted from The Carnivore Diet, By Dr. Shawn Baker.
Learn more HERE

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