Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A-Betas: the New Trans Fat

I learned a new term last night--amyloid-beta proteins--and it's sure to become a household word like trans fatty acids.

These A-beta proteins are the sticky stuff that make up the famous plaques deposited in brains of persons who show symptoms of Alzheimer's disease.

On last night's HBO special "Momentum in Science," doctors described A-Beta deposits as "dirt" or "splinters" in the brain, causing inflammation in which microglia (another new term for me) eat up the A-beta but also kill brain cells.

A researcher showed two very dramatic before-and-after slides of twenty-some neurons with many connections and then (after adding microglia) just a few neurons with almost no connections.

That was enough for me--I'm going to try to reduce the A-beta protein in my brain.

It turns out that insulin resistance and glucose levels are related to how much A-beta is present in one's brain and spinal fluid at any time.

"Insulin levels sky rocket," they said, after eating foods high in saturated fat and simple sugars. "They remain elevated for a long time... and cause increased beta amyloid in the spinal fluid."

So I'm converted: no more egg mcmuffins with orange juice (does juice have simple sugars?) when traveling.

The other segments of "The Alzheimer's Project" are about patients, families, and caregivers--useful if you aren't already involved in dementia care.

But I recommend that everyone watch the two-part series on the science of Alzheimer's Disease (AD). You can see it by streaming from the website hbo.com/alzheimers... if you can spell it. It will also be repeated several times this week, or you can buy the DVD.

Another tidbit: aerobic exercise for 30 minutes dramatically increases insulin resistance for 24 hours. Those nasty splinters aren't deposited.

Looks like my sporadic beach jogging needs to become daily.

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