In the previous blog, Part I, I highlighted the link between the increased risk of dementia (especially Alzheimer’s) with the continuous use of benzodiazepines, including Valium for anxiety, Xanax for panic, and Dalmane for insomnia. The full list of benzodiazepines, according to The Physician Desk Reference, offers 19 different benzodiazepines. Just beware: the daily usage, for 3-6 months or longer, of any one of these drugs causes an increased risk of developing dementia, even if you are taking those pills in your 30s and 40s, but especially true if you are taking those drugs in your older years.
With this blog I want to expand the umbrella of your understanding. You need to know all of the various factors that increase your risk of dementia. Remember the material from our earlier blogs. The brain has 1.1 trillion brain cells; it has one hundred million gray-matter neurons; and each neuron has 5,000 connections, creating over 500 trillion synapses. Our DNA replaces itself every 6 weeks, and our brain cells replace themselves every year. However, there are many toxins that attack those brain cells, those neurons, and those synapses. Impairment in any of those areas can lead to an increased risk of dementia.
We are a country where the average individual once consumed 15 pounds of sugar per year. We are now a country where the average person consumes 150 pounds of sugar per year. Those visits to the fast food restaurant chain? Your hamburger has sugar in every feature, your fries have sugar, your ketchup has sugar, and your soda has sugar. We used to think sugar was the fuel for the brain. We now know it is a toxin. High levels of sugar lead to cognitive impairment; and diseases, like diabetes type 2 with higher blood glucose levels, are associated with higher risks of dementia. So, place sugar next to benzodiazepines and stress as factors that increases your risk of dementia.
You can expand sugar to carbohydrates, as carbohydrates are broken down into sugar. Worse, today’s grains (our key source of carbohydrates) show a 40-fold increase in gluten, disrupting your intestinal system, leading to poor absorption of nutrients, higher absorption of toxins, and increased levels of sugar, mixed with contaminants. These components cause greater inflammation in the brain; and greater inflammation has been associated with a higher risk of dementia. We used to place the blame on fats in our diet. Today we know that a high fat diet is linked to a 44% reduction (not an increase) in the risk of developing dementia. Next to benzodiazepines and sugar, place a high diet of carbohydrates and a high diet of gluten as additional risk factors for developing dementia.
You can also add meat and dairy products to that risk. We have studies on the Blue Zones of the world (places like Sardinia in Italy or Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica or Okinawa in Japan) where a surprising portion of the population live to over a 100 years old without any dementia. We have also studied diets from around the world and assessed their relationship to the risks of developing dementia. There is a clear pattern. Those diets, like the Mediterranean diet, which have lots of vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, and seeds have a reduced risk for developing dementia while those diets, like the standard American diet, which are packed with meats, dairy products, and processed foods, have a markedly higher risk of dementia. None of the low risk dementia diets are vegan, but they all accent increased vegetables and fruits, plus decreased meat and dairy products.
The risks for dementia are higher in America than in some other countries. It’s because our meat and dairy products are more contaminated. Remember the 77,000 new chemicals over the past 25-50 years with the explosion of pesticides and herbicides. Recall how those chemicals are absorbed by plants that we now feed to our cattle and chicken. Don’t forget that our beef stock are grain-fed, not grass-fed. Don’t leave out the GMOs that have seeped into the grains, and then been absorbed into our animals. The majority of Americans have GMOs in their blood; and the great majority of Americans have toxic chemicals in their blood. All of those chemicals have been associated with an increased risk of dementia.
Hopefully, when you expand the umbrella, you have a clearer picture of the causal factors for dementia. From sugar to carbohydrates to high gluten to low fat to meat and dairy to numerous chemicals / contaminants / GMOs, you can grasp the number of rising toxins that damage our brain cells, neurons, and synapses, causing progressive impairment in brain function. Hopefully, you can understand how that level of toxicity destroys important brain activities, leading to dementia. At the same time, hopefully you can grasp how we need time at night for rejuvenation and how benzodiazepine use, especially when continuous and long-term, can reduce the brain’s ability to repair those damages.
Picture our brain as a large international airport, which has fallen into disrepair. The plane (a piece of information) lands on a runway. In the younger years, there was a clear set of signals to guide it through a maze of runways and lanes so that it could be docked at a specific terminal. In the younger years the control tower knew where the plane had docked and where the cargo had been unloaded and stored. However, now in the older years with a state of disrepair, there are no markers, no clear direction. Communication is jumbled. We cannot discern where the plane has landed. We cannot find and retrieve the cargo. We are still receiving incoming planes (constant communication). Unfortunately, those planes seem lost … just as we seem lost with our dementia.
However, an important question remains …
With this disrepair, can we rebuild the airport?
Can we reverse our dementia? Again, the answer is yes.