Today in the United States the way of life is becoming increasingly quick-paced. People are more often getting a quick breakfast, lunch or dinner from fast food restaurants. In some, this habit becomes excessive and may lead to weight gain and if not checked, may lead to obesity. This is a problem that exists with many Americans. According to the CDC “more than 35% of U.S. men and women were obese in 2009–2010” Obesity can increase the risk of many diseases such as type II diabetes and it has been found recently that there is a tie to this type of diabetes and the infamous neural degenerative disease known as Alzheimer’s.
Type II diabetes is a metabolic disorder that is characterized by high blood glucose because the body rejects its own insulin to lower these levels. This rejection is also accompanied by low levels of insulin in the body to begin with. We can treat this disease by administering insulin to these patients in order to lower their blood sugar levels and in conjunction with this we can encourage diet and exercise to solve the initial obesity problem. So diabetes is theoretically very easily treatable but obviously has no actual quick cure. When we look at Alzheimer’s there is no great way to treat it and maintain it. It is a continuous degradation of the mind and physical death of neurons and shrinking of the brain. All we can do for these patients is try to slow down the process and hope to make them comfortable.
The connection for these two diseases comes from the role of insulin in the brain. Insulin is important in the central nervous system because it regulates key processes such as neuronal survival and longevity and even plays a role in learning and memory. Type II diabetes’ main effect on its victims is low insulin levels in the body and thus lower levels in the brain. Also accompanying type II diabetes is the reduced insulin transport in the brain. These consequences result in neurons becoming energy deficient and then are susceptible to oxidation decreasing the cells’ functions. A main cause of Alzheimer’s is the accumulation of beta-amyloid masses in the brain that destroy functionality of the neurons around it. Low levels of insulin in the brain cause certain active sites of the cells of the brain to become less active and this indirectly promotes the production of these masses. In short, type II diabetes can possibly result in the acquisition of Alzheimer’s disease.
This connection raises many new thoughts. The way we eat does not solely affect our weight and we’ve known this as those that are obese are often at risk of diseases relating to the heart. Things change when our eating habits begin to affect our minds and their longevity. What can we do to fix this? Should the government begin to regulate the food market? It seems that the general public cannot make the right decisions when it comes to eating. Soon, as obesity rates climb, we will see a dramatic increase in diabetes and then even a climb or earlier onset of Alzheimer’s. If we begin to see an early onset then the average obese person will be able to contribute less creating a burden on society in terms of healthcare taxes. Can we even begin to solve this problem at the basic level of encouraging diet and exercise or do we have to focus on treating Alzheimer’s because we cannot count on people to make good choices about their lives? Education for children may need to be set into place to ingrain the connection of eating, obesity, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s much like we already drill the negative effects of cigarettes and alcohol into our youth.
There are so many things that need to be done about this issue but at so many levels that it is hard to know where to begin or where to focus our energy and attention. There are many negative implications for the future of these diseases as trends seem to be pointing toward a more obese America. At the basis of it all, we need to begin to watch what we eat so we may maintain our minds as we age.