NEW ORLEANS -- Local scientists now believe that the lifestyle many people are living could be contributing to getting Alzheimer's disease later in life.
New evidence shows why getting out of shape and a poor diet can take a toxic toll on the brain.
The discovery, published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Research, is making news in the scientific community, but Tulane researchers hope it makes news around your kitchen table. They discovered that how you treat you body could mean the difference in getting Alzheimer's or not.
"Typically in America, what happens is that you become grossly overweight. You become insulin resistant, and then if that's not reversed, you become diabetic," said Dr. David Busija, the Tulane Chairman of Pharmacology.
Dr. Busija found that the lining of the blood vessels that nourish brain cells can't deliver oxygen rich blood efficiently when two things -- high-blood sugar and the protein associated with brain plaques in those with Alzheimer's -- are present. The cells even begin to die.
"It's a little bit of starvation over a long period of time. And that really fits the profile if you look at the time course of Alzheimer's. It takes a long time to develop, except in people that have a genetic propensity towards Alzheimer's," he said.
And he said what's frightening is that once a person goes from insulin resistant or pre-diabetes to type 2 diabetes, even with controlled blood sugar, those blood vessel lining cells have memory of sorts, and still act toxic when exposed to that Alzheimer's protein.
"I think the most important thing is to keep blood glucose levels within the normal range. We need to change our behavior in order for us to be healthier," Dr. Busija said.
So as the holidays approach, this groundbreaking science may make you rethink desserts, breads and starchy foods, or being a couch potato.
The doctor said diet, exercise, weight loss and normal blood sugar levels are the best ways to protect the brain.
Researchers are also working on special types of anti-oxidants to help prevent this toxic reaction.