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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.

Water: The Classic is Back!

Every animal on the planet drinks water; it works well for hydration. Seventy percent of your body is made of water. It’s all you need to drink, and as you get unhooked from sugar and artificial sweeteners, you’ll come to enjoy it. If you want to go crazy, get some sparkling water. Although you might feel like you might die at first, you really and truly won’t perish if you don’t have some kind of sweet beverage to drink. Water—it’s good. Drink it!

What about bone broth, alcohol, and coffee? Bone broth is fine. It contains some good stuff and can help to satisfy your urge to drink something hot or flavored. However, drinking bone broth isn’t crucial to the success of the carnivore diet. You don’t need to drink it unless you want to. You can get all the nutrients you need without it, but if you enjoy or benefit from it, feel free to indulge.

Alcohol is not a health food. It won’t make you live longer, and it won’t make you any hardier. When you’re deciding whether to indulge in alcohol or skip it, understand that ethanol is toxic. Once in a while, I have a glass of red wine or two. I generally can expect my sleep to be less restful, and my athletic performance often is a little impaired the next day. Neither issue is the end of the world; the important thing is that I understand what the negative consequences of having the wine are and account for them when I make my decision. Most people who do a carnivore diet for a long period report their desire to drink alcohol drastically diminishes. Beer and certainly sugary mixed drinks are a bigger negative than a dry wine or a distilled spirit. Some people even have problems with the grains that are distilled to make the liquor.

Coffee is something I have little experience with. I’ve tried a few cups here and there over the decades, but I’ve never enjoyed it. Perhaps, if you’re a coffee lover, my inexperience is reason enough for you to stop listening to me. Many people find coffee incredibly satisfying and often turn drinking it into a ritualistic experience.

The science on whether coffee is good or bad for us continually changes. Caffeine has some effects on our physiology and acts as a central nervous system stimulant. It also affects the sympathetic nervous system and has been shown to aid in sports performance. However, research has found that it leads to sleep disturbance and can negatively affect gastrointestinal motility and gastric acid secretion. Some people find that caffeine acts to dysregulate appetite, often suppressing it. It may interfere with nutrient and mineral absorption. In all likelihood, though, for most people caffeine probably has a minimal impact in the grand scheme of things.

My suggestion is that you not try to quit coffee or caffeine during the initial phases of the diet. Once you’ve adapted to your new eating habits, give it a go if it’s something you want to take on.

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

Truth About Kidney Health and Gout

People who are emotionally invested in avoiding protein often state that protein damages the kidneys, particularly when that protein comes from animals. Where did this theory come from? Not from studying humans. On the podcast I share with ultra-endurance world-record holder, Zach Bitter, I was talking with Dr. Stuart Phillips, one of the world’s leading protein experts, and we got into this topic. The misconception about this issue evolved from some work researchers did on rats, but no research on humans has ever shown the same results.
Protein doesn’t damage kidneys, but damaged kidneys tend to leak protein, which is something that contributes to the confusion about the relationship between protein and the kidneys. Many physicians have bought into this myth that protein damages kidneys even though the assertion has almost no scientific support. As with other misconceptions, you can look at the treasure trove of nutritional epidemiology and find some relationship between a high-protein diet and an increased incidence of kidney disease, but, as always, you have to ask the question, “Does it apply to all people in all situations?”
In my experience, people who eat a high-protein carnivore diet aren’t finding that their kidneys are compromised. I’m not saying that no one who follows the carnivore diet will ever have kidney problems; they can occur for many reasons. But I do not think that an all-meat diet causes kidney issues. I know of some cases where chronic kidney dysfunction has started to get better for several people.
Let’s put this in perspective. Humans evolved in an environment where eating copious amounts of meat was likely a common occurrence. We have several historical accounts of humans consuming very large amounts of meat, and those accounts show no evidence that the people experienced kidney problems. As I mentioned earlier, the explorers on the Lewis and Clark expedition were noted to have eaten as much as 9 pounds of meat per day. Modern-day competitive eaters have sometimes eaten more than 20 pounds of meat in one sitting without damaging their kidneys. If protein did indeed damage our kidneys, humans would not have made it this far through history.
Another common myth about the consumption of meat is that it leads to the development of gout. This perception goes back to the days when gout was considered a “rich man’s” disease. Because the financially well off were diagnosed with gout more frequently than the less affluent population, and the rich also were the people who could afford to eat meat, the assumption was that meat was the cause of gout. However, what do you think we find when we look at people who eat only meat? They don’t get gout, and if they had it before they start the carnivore diet, the gout generally clears up.
One of the beautiful things about a carnivore diet is that it tends to make some things crystal clear. You can wallow around in pointless epidemiology or use some questionably applicable animal studies to try to interpret something about the effects of eating meat, or you can take the simpler route and look at people who eat only meat. When we look at populations of meat eaters, such as the Maasai, Mongols, or Sámi, we see that there’s no indication that they were hobbled by gout. Today I routinely observe people with gout who go on an all-meat diet; for them, gout becomes a distant memory within months.
So, what about those rich dudes from a few hundred years ago? Why did they have gout? Because they had access to something that the common folk did not. Sugar! The wealthy also had more access to alcohol, and both sugar and alcohol are strong drivers of gout. The traditional view of gout is that it’s caused by an increase in uric acid because we can see uric acid crystals when we view gouty tissue under a microscope. I’ve taken care of plenty of gout patients over the years, and I’ve even removed large gouty tophi (which are basically giant blobs of crystal deposits in the skin that resemble toothpaste when cut open) from all parts of the body. None of my gout-afflicted patients has said he was a pure carnivore.
We know that purines form as food breaks down, and they can lead to increased uric acid production. Meat is often high in purines, and thus experts concluded that meat was the reason for the rich man’s disease. The problem is that most food leads to purines being produced, and high uric acid levels do not always lead to gout. As with all things, the path to gout isn’t a simple route. Is uric acid more of a problem when an underlying inflammatory state exists?
If so, what drives the inflammation? What about hyperinsulinemia (excess insulin)? Because of the complex system that comprises the human body, we have to look at issues like gout from all angles. Fructose is a vital component of table sugar, making up 50 percent of the sucrose molecule; the other 50 percent is glucose. We’ve seen that as fructose consumption goes up, the incidence of gout also goes up. Coincidentally, markers of inflammation and uric acid levels also rise as fructose consumption increases. Alcohol is another major contributor to higher uric acid levels. Like fructose, higher alcohol consumption tends to increase the incidence of gout.
One caveat is that if someone already has gout or is strongly predisposed to it, that person may experience a flare up during the transition phase into a ketogenic or carnivore diet. The flare-up is likely a result of a preexisting inflamed state combined with entering into a state of nutritional ketosis, or it’s because a transient uric acid elevation is a likely reason for the short-term occurrence of gout. After a person has fully transitioned to an all-meat diet, the gout generally subsides for good.

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

Might I Suggest the Carnivore Platter

I’m sure you’ve been thinking, “What food can I eat?” Generally, if a food comes from an animal, you can eat it: beef, lamb, chicken, turkey, deer, bison, fish, shellfish, pork, caribou, whale, shark, elephant, snake, crocodile, whatever. Most people on a carnivore diet limit what they eat to the animals that are available in the same geographic region where they live.
Eggs work for many people, but they’re problematic for other people. I recommend that you use eggs as a side dish, perhaps in the classic form of steak and eggs for breakfast. I eat eggs once in a while—often when I’m traveling. In general, they’re a nutrient-rich food, and they make for a nice addition to your meals if you tolerate them.
Dairy is unpredictable. Some people do poorly with it, perhaps because of lactose intolerance or some other sensitivity. Other people find they can handle nonbovine dairy foods, such as sheep’s or goat’s milk dairy. Other people claim to do better with raw dairy or A2 dairy (dairy that contains only A2 beta-casein). Remember: Like many plant foods, dairy was relatively a late addition to the human diet. If you struggle with health issues, I strongly recommend that you consider forgoing dairy for at least a trial period.
Aside from different tolerances to the various types of dairy, people sometimes find they tolerate some dairy styles better than others. For example, many people tolerate hard cheeses better than they tolerate softer cheeses or milk. Some people don’t tolerate cheese or milk, but butter and especially ghee don’t cause any problems for them. Fermented dairy products, such as kefir and yogurt, can be fine for some people but cause issues for others. If you choose to use these products, don’t use the varieties with added flavoring or sugars. I’m not convinced you always need to choose high-fat products versus other products; it depends on the ingredients. If the food includes a lot of gums, stabilizers, or sweeteners, I generally avoid it.
People often ask me about cooking oils. My simple answer is that you should use animal fats, period. Use butter, ghee, lard, tallow, suet, duck fat, and so on. Plant oils are generally garbage for us; there’s no need for them. And, honestly, the animal fats taste and cook better anyway. My apologies to any keto folks in the audience, but I suggest you dump the coconut oil, MCT oil, avocado oil, and olive oil. Although these oils are generally better options than corn, soybean, and canola oils, they still can contain compounds that might be problematic—for example, salicylates in coconut oil, which, cause a rash, digestive upset, headaches, or swelling for some people. Here’s a trick I often use when I’m cooking: Heat a pan. Touch the fatty edge of the meat I’m cooking to the pan until the fat melts. By doing this, I get a nice layer of fat to cook the meat in.
Spices and seasonings come in handy, especially for people who are transitioning into the carnivore diet. Many people do fine with spices and seasonings over the long term, although just as many people tend to find them less desirable over time. I often use only salt on my steaks, and I’m quite happy with that. Sometimes I add some spice to the meats and consider the meal to be a bit of a special occasion. I suggest you avoid sauces that are heavily laced with sugar, vegetable oils, soy, gluten, MSG, and other ingredients that have the potential for problems. If you want to add flavor to your meats, the best option is to make homemade rubs, spice blends, or marinades. Cooking with herbs or vegetables also can add a nice flavor, but you need to be objective about how they affect you and eliminate anything that causes a problem.

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

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