04 September 2013

Brain - Cancer and Alzheimer's

Article Number 1:

In cancer research, it is very important to understand how cancer cells work, what they need to thrive and multiply, in other words their metabolism. As I've mentioned before, sugar (glucose) is an important "food" for cancer cells, as they generate energy by fermentation (Sugar and Cancer and Starving Cancer Cells). They are unable to survive in an oxygen rich environment and without sugar.
"Recently, it was discovered that while normal brain tissue easily adapts to using ketones as a metabolic fuel, cancerous GBM cells lack this ability. This type of brain tumor depends almost entirely on a constant supply of glucose to thrive."
Ketone bodies are produced by the liver when carbohydrates are absent from the diet. When we eat a carbohydrate rich diet, glucose will be our primary fuel. Our cells are adapted to run on ketone bodies, but not cancerous cells. This means that a ketogenic diet (high in fat and low in carbohydrates) would result in tumor regression while sparing healthy tissues from starvation.

How to starve cancer cells, also in the news:

Article Number 2:
The Surprising Ways Grains Are Destroying Your Brain
"More recently, the New England Journal of Medicine showed us that even small elevations of blood sugar translate into increased risk for becoming demented. And blood sugar relates to dietary choices. Higher carbs means higher risk for dementia."
Alzheimer's patients are also most likely have heart disease and vice versa. This means, that the risk factors are similar for the two conditions:
  • hypertension
  • atherosclerosis
  • arterial damage from smoking
It is also important to note, that type 2 diabetics have an increased risk of developing vascular dementia and Alzheimer's disease. This means, that whatever dietary factors lead to diabetes and insulin resistance, will also be a risk factor for Alzheimer's.

Technically, it works like this:
  • Alzheimer's manifests itself by the build-up of a plaque (amyloid-plaque) in the brain.
  • The main component of this plaque is beta-amyloid (a protein).
  • A healthy brain is able to clear this protein efficiently, but not an Alzheimer's brain. Why?
  • A compound called AGE is implicated in the build-up of this plaque.
  • AGEs are the tangles of glucose and proteins sticking together in our tissues. This is especially elevated in diabetic patients. On a high sugar diet, sugar sticks randomly to proteins, in this case to the beta-amyloid proteins, forming long filaments. These filaments grow as long as sugar is present in the bloodstream, cross-linking to nearby proteins, eventually becoming AGE's.
  • We have a built-in mechanism to remove the unnecessary proteins from our brain, called insulin-degrading enzyme (IDE). The efficiency of this clean-up mechanism depends on the amount of insulin we have in our bloodstream. The more insulin, the less IDE available, so the higher the risk for a plaque build-up in our brain (Dennis Selkoe on the Amyloid Hypothesis of Alzheimer's Disease).
  • This suggests that whatever factors elevate insulin in our bloodstream, will also contribute to the formation of plaques in our brain.

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