Who doesn’t want to avoid dementia? Anyone who has lost their keys, walked into a room and can’t remember why, who has forgotten someone’s name or started making lists because of forgetfulness, understands the importance of brain function.
When memory starts to go and details become fuzzy it can be very upsetting, especially for someone who has seen the effects of dementia first hand in a friend or relative.
Research has been focusing on ways to reduce the risk for dementia and as it turns out, what you eat has an effect on your quality of thinking.
Giving up sugar can be quite difficult as it is in everything. It's in your dessert. It's in chocolate, fruit, yogurt, coffee drinks, and milk.
Unfortunately, it appears that the more sugar a person consumes subsequently increasing blood sugar levels, the higher the risk for brain shrinkage in the memory center known as the hippocampus.
In a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers found cognitive decline in blood sugars in the range of 105-110 mg/dL.
Many labs still report 110 mg/dL as the upper end of “normal” but an ideal blood sugar should be under 100 mg/dL and optimally in the 80s mg/dL fasting. Levels over 126 mg/dL are considered diabetic.
Additionally, Dr. David Perlmutter in his book "Grain Brain" demonstrated how gluten increases inflammation in a large number of people who either are celiac, have a gluten allergy, and/or have a gluten sensitivity that is non-celiac.
Research has found that gluten can be just as much a neurologic problem as an intestinal problem. It can cause issues that include increased anxiety, depression, balance problems, motion sickness. It can bring on multiple sclerosis-type symptoms, brain fog, epilepsy and vertigo (spinning sensation). It can be responsible for poor coordination, bipolar disorder and, of course, memory issues.
Does this mean diet changes are in order?
Reducing or eliminating sugar intake is critical for preventing pre-diabetes and diabetes. If dementia is a concern then getting blood sugar under 100 mg/dL is a start.
Remember that a high carbohydrate diet (pasta, bread, crackers, cereal, oatmeal, bars, cookies, potatoes, rice, etc.) creates a lot of glucose in the body, leading to higher blood sugar numbers. This means it is time to read labels on everything.
Yogurt has been known to have 15+ grams of sugar in that tiny little container. A cup of milk might have 9 grams. The cup of pasta may have 40 grams of carbohydrates and that bag of chips 20 grams of carbohydrates.
Those with a sweet tooth or who need a mid-afternoon snack should reach for cut-up vegetables, natural fruit such as an apple, or a handful of raw almonds. Also be aware of coffee drinks that are dressed up with syrups, milk (even soy milk has sugar), whipped cream, chocolate and caramel.
Consider trying a gluten-free diet for four weeks and see if it makes a difference in any symptoms that are causing trouble.
Gluten may be the inflammatory cause behind gas, bloating, headaches, PMS, acne, joint pain, muscle pain, fatigue, insomnia, heartburn, infertility, and of course all the neurologic issues listed above. Remember, to get 100 percent of the results one must be 100 percent gluten free.
Memory loss and the threat of dementia is scary, but these simple changes do not require medication or supplements and require just a little label reading.
Celiac Support Association. Neurological Complications of Celiac Disease. Web. 6 Feb, 2014. Retrieved from
Crane, N, Walker, R., Hubbard, R., Li, G., Nathan, D., Zheng, H., Haneuse, S., Craft, S., Montine, T., Kahn, S., McCormick, W., McCurry, S., Bowen, J., and Larson, E. Glucose Levels and Risk of Dementia. Web. 6 Feb, 2014. Retrieved from
Nikpour, S. Neurological Manifestations, diagnosis and treatment of celiac disease: A comprehensive review. Web. 6 Feb, 2014. Retrieved from
Stetka, B., and Perlmutter, D. Dementia: Is Gluten the Culprit? Web. 6 Feb, 2014. Retrieved from
Reviewed February 11, 2014
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith