I don’t mean to harp on body image and societal pressures too much. I know that this was my topic last week, but our article this week begs me to write a second post about the topic. I am one of the two thirds of Americans who are overweight or obese and like so many Americans I am trying to lose weight. I have many reasons and motivations for my journey. I can’t lie; body image is one of them. What woman doesn’t want to look good in that pair of skinny jeans or the classic little black dress? I have other reasons too, though. I love being outdoors and adventuring in the wilderness, state parks, and national forest reserves. I plan on spending the summer after I graduate guiding canoe trips in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in northern Minnesota. I want to be able to climb mountains and go spelunking, lead an active lifestyle. There are also the health risks that are associated with being overweight. Most often I think about cardiovascular problems like heart disease, diabetes, increased wear on joints, sleep apnea, each of which should be good enough motivation to lose weight in and of itself. All together… Ufda. So let’s add one more to the list of health problems that can have overweight and obesity associated risk factors: Alzheimer’s. I know what you’re thinking, ‘it makes sense that obesity would lead to the breaking down of your body, but your brain too?’ Connections have been made between obesity, type II diabetes, and the neurodegenerative Alzheimer’s disease.
Type II Diabetes
Type II Diabetes is an epidemic in the United States. It is caused by high blood glucose which leads to the body rejecting the insulin that it is making along with overall lower insulin levels. One main cause of Type II Diabetes is linked to obesity and one of the treatments for it is diet and exercise. Insulin shots are also prescribed to help lower blood sugar.
A bit about Alzheimer’s Disease (AD)
Alzheimer’s Disease is as mentioned above a neurodegenerative disease. It breaks down the brain giving patients symptoms such as loss of memory, difficulty with speech, and motor impairment. The degradation of of the brain of an advanced alzheimer’s disease patient is shown below.
There are two main reasons for this deterioration: plaques and tangles. The build up of beta-amyloid forms plaques and creates pressure on surrounding neurons. It also leaves the brain cells more susceptible to oxidative stress which leads to apoptosis, or cell death.
So how are these two things linked? Insulin has a key role in the neurons ability to survive and low levels of insulin can be indirectly related to the build up of plaques in and tangles in the brain. The lowering of insulin levels in the brain created by type II diabetes decreases activity in certain parts of the brain including parts that help to break down plaques and tangle build ups leading to over production of beta-amyloid and cell death.
The links between type II diabetes and insulin are clear and the link between Alzheimer’s Disease and insulin are becoming more clear. This leads into some interesting thoughts about how the two are linked. People have plenty of reasons already as to how obesity is adversely affecting their health including heart disease. If they were aware of the mental degradation and link to Alzheimer’s could that information help to motivate more Americans into a healthier lifestyle? It’s obviously never quite as cut and dry as this though. Factor such as the pricing of fresh versus processed foods, the amount of time to make dinner versus going out to eat, the time it takes to lead a more active lifestyle all contribute to America’s obesity problem and are difficult problems.
It’s hard to think that the addition of Alzheimer’s to an already long list of reasons to lose weight will change anything, but the more that people know about the adverse effects of obesity and type II diabetes, the better. If anything, it can’t hurt.