Evidence points to a link between high sugar consumption and Alzheimer’s risk. Managing your sugar intake earlier in life could help reduce your risk.
Alzheimer’s disease is a brain disorder that can affect your ability to think, remember, and perform daily activities. It’s the most common form of dementia in older people, but you may begin to develop biological markers of Alzheimer’s as early as your 30s.
Researchers have found a link between sugar and the development of Alzheimer’s disease. The link also applies to high blood sugar levels associated with diabetes.
How much sugar you eat may affect your risk or speed up the arrival of symptoms. But sometimes, a little sugar might help people living with Alzheimer’s disease.
Here’s what you need to know to lower your risk.
High sugar intake and high blood sugar levels can increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia.
Recent studies have highlighted the link between high sugar levels and Alzheimer’s.
Those who consumed about 10 grams (2.4 teaspoons) of sugar per day had the largest risk increase. Lactose, the sugar found in milk and milk products, had the strongest link to Alzheimer’s among the sugar types studied.
High blood sugar from diabetes is
The study included 105 people who were cognitively healthy at the start of the study. Researchers found that as fasting blood sugar levels rose, people developed more brain imaging markers of cognitive decline, regardless of body weight and insulin differences.
One limitation of the study was that participants were mostly white, so the results may not reflect the larger population.
Eating too much sugar, especially if you have diabetes, can speed up dementia development. That means symptoms may show up sooner.
- trouble with memory
- having difficulty problem-solving
- mood and personality changes
- poor hygiene
- social withdrawal
But small amounts of sugar may be helpful sometimes.
That’s because some people with later stages of Alzheimer’s may lose their appetite, making it hard to get the nutrition they need to stay healthy.
The Alzheimer’s Association suggests adding a little sugar or salt to make food more appealing and help with nutritional intake.
Some people may need to follow diets that drastically reduce sugar and salt, so check with a doctor before adding more.
One practical approach to reducing sugar intake is limiting or eliminating sugary beverages. Research has found a direct link between sugary beverages and increased risk of Alzheimer’s.
For instance, a
Other ways to
- cutting back on table sugar and sweeteners like syrup, molasses, and honey
- reducing the amount you add by half and then decreasing from there
- replacing sugar with spice or extracts
nutrition labelsand choosing products with less added sugar
- reducing the amount of sugar in recipes or swapping it out with an equal amount of unsweetened applesauce
- avoiding fruit packaged in syrup or rinsing and draining it in a colander
- choosing fresh, dried, or frozen fruit when possible
Here are some answers to questions you may have about sugar and Alzheimer’s disease.
Can people with dementia eat sugar?
Limiting sugar intake is good for overall health because eating too much sugar can contribute to obesity, type 2 diabetes, and other conditions.
That said, sugar isn’t bad in moderation. It might even help people in the later stages of Alzheimer’s.
That’s because your sense of smell and taste may decrease and make many foods seem less appealing. You may have problems chewing or swallowing, or a depressed mood may make you feel less like eating. A little sugar might make food more inviting.
Why do people with Alzheimer’s crave sweets?
Some people with Alzheimer’s experience a loss of taste and smell, which makes food less tasty. They may start craving sweet foods and intense flavors to make up for the loss.
They may also have anxiety or depression, and eating sweets boosts feel-good chemicals for a short time.
Some medications may also cause cravings for sweets.
Can other dietary changes reduce my risk of Alzheimer’s?
Research suggests that what you eat may positively or negatively affect how you think and remember. Certain kinds of diets, like the Mediterranean diet and MIND diet, may have a positive effect on your brain.
Researchers are studying
Researchers have found evidence that high sugar intake, as well as the high blood sugar levels associated with diabetes, can increase your risk of Alzheimer’s disease. The risk may be more significant for women.
One way to reduce your risk is to reduce your sugar consumption.
High sugar intake may also worsen Alzheimer’s symptoms in people with the disease. But if a loved one is having difficulty eating enough, experts say you can consider adding a little sugar to make food more appealing.