Alzheimer's: Diabetes of the Brain?

By Dr. Suzanne DeLaMonte Alpert Medical School, Brown University Neuropathologist, Rhode Island Hospital

Posted on | By Dr. Suzanne DeLaMonte | Comments ()

If it’s not genetic, what else could be the cause of Alzheimer’s?

Truly genetic diseases do not change over a 30-year period. That interval is too short to affect rates of genetic diseases that arise only in middle-aged or elderly people. The human breeding, growth, development and aging cycle is much longer than 30 years. In contrast, disease like HIV/AIDS and lung cancer are clearly exposure-related, so their mortality rates can be modified within a short period if the exposure to the disease-causing agents are reduced.

Could diabetes and Alzheimer’s be caused by some types of exposures?

We have reasonable evidence that human exposure to nitrosamines is at the root cause of not only Alzheimer’s, but several other insulin-resistance diseases, including Type 2 diabetes, fatty liver disease, also known as NASH and visceral obesity. 

The elimination of local farms in favor of mega-farms requires transport of food for long distances. To prolong shelf-life, preservatives are added. The problem is worsened with transport of “fresh” foods from across the Pacific Ocean. Nitrites are added to meats and processed foods for flavor and coloring. High levels of nitrates added to fertilizers can be incorporated into produce and then converted to nitrites and finally nitrosamines in the body.

Nitrosamines contaminate many processed foods, including fish, cheeses, hotdogs, ground beef, smoked meats like bacon, smoked turkey and ham, and beer. Originally, nitrites were added to food as preservatives to prevent salmonella infection from contaminated meet. The policy remains in place. Although efforts have been made to reduce the levels, nitrites are still added as preservatives. Over time, Western societies, particularly in the US, have been chronically exposed to increasing amounts of nitrosamines due to continuous consumption of processed foods.

Nitrosamines are well-recognized cancer-causing agents. In high doses, they cause cancers in many organs. One of the main toxins in tobacco is a nitrosamine. However, low chronic exposures have cumulative effects. 

Years ago, a few scientists suggested that nitrosamines might cause diabetes. The concept was not pursued until now. We performed experiments in the laboratory and showed that very low, limited exposures to nitrosamines (the type found in food) cause Alzheimer’s-type brain degeneration, dementia, diabetes, fatty liver disease and obesity. Adding high fat to the diet made the disease-causing effects of nitrosamines much worse.

 Dr. Suzanne DeLaMonte

Article written by Dr. Suzanne DeLaMonte
Alpert Medical School, Brown University Neuropathologist, Rhode Island Hospital