To Your Health: Update on Sugar & Alzheimer’s Disease & More

To Your Health: Update on Sugar & Alzheimer’s Disease & More

Dr. Alan Safdi is a gastroenterologist with a talent for delivering evidence-based medical findings for healthy living in easily digestible sound bytes. Our relationship with Safdi began several years ago when we attended a Wellness Conference at The Peaks Resort & Spa. We next heard him speak again at Telluride First Foundation’s inaugural Integrative Wellness Conference, at the Telluride Conference Center in Mountain Village. where the audience got enough of a taste of his encyclopedic knowledge of mind-body wellness and preventative medicine to want more.

And more is coming…

On Wednesday March 22 through Friday, March 24, 2017, Dr. Alan Safdi returns to Telluride to speak at a three-day, evidence-based conference entitled “Wellness Symposium & GI Update 2017,” at Telski’s Peaks Resort & Spa. The subject: longevity, wellness, micro-nutrients, common medical disorders. Nutritional science will be explored in depth, which means no testimonials, only evidence-based medical science.

The event is open to medical professionals* as well as to the general public.

For further information and to register by email, go to asafdi@ohiogi or call (24 hours) 888-696-6734. Mention “Wellness Symposium” and receive a 20% discount.

Dr Alan Safid is a regular contributor to Telluride Inside… and Out. His column is entitled “To Your Health.” (Search under the column name or Safdi’s name on our home page to find all his eye-opening posts.) 

In the run-up to the conference, this week Dr. Safdi talks about the relationship between sugar and Alzheimer’s disease and other medical challenges. Bottom line: Back in the 1970s, we were misled by our government’s recommendations and need to continue to reevaluate our eating habits – especially with regard to sugar and artificially sweetened beverages, even salad dressing.



Can sugary beverages precipitate preclinical Alzheimer’s disease?

We always figured a calorie is a calorie, but simple sugars are calories we need to avoid as much as possible.

Our government bet wrong: Back in the late 1970s, the powers that were decided to embark on a war on the fats in our diet, ignoring sugar. That turned out to be an  ill-fated decision.

What replaced the fat in your ice cream and salad dressings? The answer, all too often: sugar.

A recent study published earlier this month showed that higher consumption of sugary beverages was associated with some of the markers that align with pre-clinical Alzheimer’s disease. Another very scary finding was that higher consumption of these beverages was associated with lower total brain volume. Every day fruit juice consumption was also related to lower total brain volume, hippocampal volume (memory area of the brain) and poorer episodic memory. Some amounts of fruit juice may be fine – but whole fruit with fiber and other phytochemicals is generally way better for you.

People always ask me about diet drinks but so far, there are no scientific findings. Personally, however, I would avoid them. 

Sugar–free and “diet” drinks are often seen as healthier options when compared to drinks loaded with sugar, but I have argued that such beverages do not promote healthy weight, a notion supported by good data.

There is no solid evidence to support claims that diet drinks are any better for health or that they prevent obesity and obesity-related diseases such as type 2 diabetes. Despite having no or very little energy content, it is a concern that artificially–sweetened beverages trigger compensatory food intake by stimulating sweet taste receptors. That fact, together with the consumers’ awareness of the low–calorie content of these beverages, could result in overconsumption of other foods, thus contributing to obesity, type 2 diabetes, and other obesity–related health problems.

Another challenge with sugar-sweetened soft drinks is the potential for gestational diabetes or diabetes during pregnancy.

A study (published 2-20-2017) was conducted to examine the incidence of gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) based on soft drink consumption. Results suggested that higher consumption of sugar–sweetened soft drinks before pregnancy was an independent risk factor for gestational diabetes.

In a recent (1-20-2017) systematic review and meta–analysis, researchers assessed whether soft drink intake is connected with the development of metabolic syndrome.

That work suggested sugar–sweetened beverage and artificially sweetened beverage (ASB) consumption are both connected with metabolic syndrome. That link could be driven by the fact that soft drink consumption serves as a surrogate for an unhealthy lifestyle, or an adverse cardiovascular risk factor profile.

Some salad dressings have enough sugar added that we should – and could – consider them desert. And the effects of a high sugar content in our diets directly correlates to higher incidences of diabetes, obesity, even hypertension.

Fats slow gastric-emptying, making us feel full quicker. In contrast, simple sugars are very quickly absorbed into our blood stream and stimulate insulin secretion. Insulin blocks other hormones that make us feel full and, in fact, makes us even hungrier by taking our blood sugar below the baseline.

We were also told that when it came to hypertension salt is the enemy, but simple sugars play a big role in that affliction too.

Dietary efforts to control high blood pressure have historically focused on limiting sodium, but added sugar in processed foods may be a far worse actor when it comes to hypertension than added salt. Fructose in particular may uniquely increase cardiovascular risk by inciting metabolic dysfunction and increasing blood pressure variability, myocardial oxygen demand, heart rate, and inflammation.

We need to focus on diets that call for eating plenty of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, along with good dairy products, poultry, fish, legumes, nuts, and certain vegetable oils (like olive oil), and limit our intake of sweets, sugar-sweetened beverages and red meat.

Compelling evidence from basic science, population studies, and clinical trials has linked sugars, and particularly monosaccharide fructose, to the development of hypertension. Moreover, evidence suggests that sugars in general and fructose in particular, may contribute to overall cardiovascular risk through a variety of mechanisms.

Several hundred years ago, hypertension basically did not exist, but then as sugar consumption increased, so did hypertension, gout, obesity, and diabetes.

What’s worse, our government even sponsored the production of high-fructose corn syrup. The only place in your body that can metabolize and use fructose is the liver. If you take in fructose in excess amounts, it is converted into fats in our liver. It is often not the dietary good fats that cause a problem, but excessive amounts of simple sugars, including fructose.

We should strive to eat foods as they come out of the ground or are otherwise natural. Is it natural for fish to eat corn, which is the case with farm-raised fish? Is it natural for cows to eat corn? No. Should we consume white bread or white pastas or white rice? When we harvest wheat, it is brown, but we often remove the beneficial parts, including the fiber and wheat germ. Eat whole oranges and fruits, but be careful when you turn fruit into juice. When we juice, we remove beneficial fiber that lowers the negative impact on our blood sugar. Yes, you can have deserts, but consider them a rare treat and whole fruit as a much better option.


More about Dr. Alan Safdi:

Dr. Alan Safdi
Dr. Alan Safdi

Dr. Alan Safdi is a speaker, contributor, and serves on the advisory board of the Telluride First Foundation.

He is board certified in Internal Medicine and in Gastroenterology and a Fellow of the American College of Gastroenterology. A proven leader in the healthcare arena, Safdi has been featured on the national program “Medical Crossfire” and authored or co-authored numerous medical articles and abstracts. He has been an investigator in over 581 studies and is President of both the Consultants For Clinical Research and the Ohio Gastroenterology and Liver Institute.

Dr. Safdi has been involved in grant-based and clinical research for about 35 years and is passionate about disease prevention and wellness, not just fixing what has gone wrong. He is an international lecturer on the subjects of wellness, nutrition, and gastroenterology.


*For medical professionals only, the conference offers 12 Hours CME Category 1 and 12 Hours AAFP Prescribed. This activity is certified by the American Academy of Family Physicians for up to 24 AAFP Prescribed hours. AAFP Prescribed credit is accepted as equivalent to AMA PRA Category 1 Credit™ toward the AMA Physician’s Recognition Award (PRA).

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