“What would you like to order today?” “I want two number ones, a number six, a large side of fries and a shake.” “Would you like some insulin with that?” “Insulin?”
Most who hear the word insulin think about Diabetes; perhaps have had a friend or family member who takes insulin, either the pill form or a continuous pump, and checks blood sugars before and after a meal. However, for those who do not know, Insulin is a hormone produced by the body to help regulate energy in cells throughout the body. It is involved in how the cells intake glucose, the most prevalent sugar used in the body, and therefore keeps our bodies processing normally.
This week insulin’s role in the brain was brought to light for the neurochemistry class, because research has shown a correlation between the body’s use and misuse of insulin to the symptoms of the neurodegenerative disease know as Alzheimer’s. The symptoms such as dying brain cells as well as plaques and tangles in the brain.
The outside of brain cells are covered with docking stations specialized to accept insulin; when insulin attaches itself to these receptors the cell undergoes changes that allow glucose to enter from the outside and other cellular processes result from insulin’s binding to the cell. These other processes have a profound effect of the life of the brain cell, as well as the brain’s overall health. One of the pathways after insulin binding is the an enzyme (Protein Kinase B) that stops another enzyme (Glycogen Synthase Kinase, GSK) from becoming more active in the cell’s functions than it is meant to be. The enzyme GSK, if not under control has been found to have involvement in the processes that result in the tangles in brain, as well as the buildup of plaques.
Another important pathway after insulin binding that is important for the activation of an enzyme (BAD, an antagonist to cellular apoptosis) that communicates with the cell for the prevention of cell death. As a result more brain cells stay alive which protects an individual’s mental health.
Now, where does the dinner plate come in?
Unhealthy eating and lack of physical activity dramatically increases a person’s chances of contracting of Diabetes, specifically type 2. Type 2 Diabetes, is when your body does not produce enough insulin, or the number of docking stations on the cell for insulin is low. This lack of docking stations, also called insulin resistance, slows the processes of brain cells toward defending themselves from death, and from creating plaques and tangles. This all increases the early symptoms of brain diseases like Alzheimer’s.
The next time the dinner bell happens to ring at your house, take a moment and ponder about how sneaking some healthy foods might help keep your family physically healthy; while at the same time protect your loved ones future mental health.