How Insulin Resistance May Speed Up Cognitive Decline

insulin resisance

In a recent study, researchers found that insulin resistance may be speeding up cognitive decline in those with insulin resistance.

Insulin resistance means the body’s cells are not responding to insulin as they should causing blood sugar levels to rise, leading to prediabetes, type 2 diabetes, and other health problems.

In this study from Tel Aviv University in Tel Aviv published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, researchers found that executive function and memory are especially sensitive to the effects of insulin resistance.

According to the University of California, San Francisco, the role of executive function in the brain, which is named that solely as a business metaphor, entails “the higher-level cognitive skills you use to control and coordinate your other cognitive abilities and behaviors.”

Damage to executive function leads to issues such as difficulty with planning and organizing, inappropriate social behavior, a loss of fine motor skills, an inability to multitask, a hard time processing, storing, and retrieving information, mood dysregulation, and more.

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Does Insulin Resistance Affect Cognitive Function?

In the study, researchers found that a more rapid decline in executive function and memory was noted not only diabetic subjects with insulin resistance but non-diabetic subjects with insulin resistance, as well.

According to the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease press release researchers followed a group of about 500 patients with existing heart disease for over 20 years. They checked all the patient’s baseline insulin resistance and performed tests on their cognitive functions looking at memory, executive function, visual spatial processing, and attention. They conducted these tests 15 years later and then 5 years after.

They discovered that those with the most insulin resistance were at a higher risk for poor cognitive performance and a faster cognitive decline even after adjusting for cardiovascular risk and other factors.

In the meantime, the research team is “studying the vascular and non-vascular mechanisms by which insulin resistance may affect cognition.”

What Can We Do to Lower Insulin Resistance?

Professor Tanne states that insulin resistance can be prevented as well as treated by lifestyle changes and “certain insulin-sensitizing drugs”. He says that, “Exercising, maintaining a balanced and healthy diet, and watching your weight will help you prevent insulin resistance and, as a result, protect your brain as you get older.”

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One of the easiest ways to fight insulin resistance is to walk daily. Walking is a low-impact and low-risk way of engaging large muscles in the body. Studies have found that in obese people, walking is a great way to help fight insulin resistance as well as to reduce abdominal fat.

When it comes to diet, Dr. Axe shares some things we can do to lower insulin resistance:

  • Watch your carbohydrate intake. In particular, try to limit refined grains and sugary foods. He suggests trying almond or coconut flour in place of regular flour. Check out our recipe section for more low carb recipe ideas.
  • Avoid sugary drinks. Try flavored soda water, unsweetened tea, or one of these low carb drinks.
  • Get enough fiber. The fiber in vegetables, for example, will go a long way in helping you reduce cholesterol and feel full.
  • Get enough healthy fat. Fat from avocados or olives, nuts and seeds, and quality animal sources may help reduce insulin resistance by lowering your intake of carbohydrates as well as helping you feel satiated after eating.
  • Get enough protein. Dr. Axe writes, “Lean protein foods, such as organic chicken, wild fish, free-range eggs, lentils, yogurt and almonds, help regulate your blood sugar levels.”

Sysy Morales has lived with type 1 diabetes for 23 years. She also blogs at The Girls Guide to Diabetes, is a motivational speaker and is a graduate of The Institute for Integrative Nutrition. Sysy lives in Virginia with her husband and homeschools their 9-year-old twins.

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