8 Responses to “Red meat, iron and Alzheimer’s”

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  1. avatar George @ the High Fat hep C Diet says:

    it’s the proverbial bad penny, the idea that red meat causes everything.

    Assume a moment they’re right and dietary iron causes AD.
    Then read junk food labels and work out how much added, supplementary iron the average person gets from Milo, breakfast cereals, yeast spreads, wheat flour and so on.
    It’ll be more than they get from meat and vege.
    As AD is also associated with high insulin levels and DM2, I think that that thoughtlessly added, unknown to consumers, and junk carbohydrate-associated iron is the greater risk.

  2. avatar Tom Welsh says:

    Zoe, you wrote that Alzheimer’s can be characterized as “Type 3 Diabetes” because it involves the brain’s response to glucose.

    How does that fit in with the fact – which I often see stated and never denied – that the brain, unlike most other organs, requires glucose for energy?

    I understand that our muscles and other organs may have evolved to run on a mixture of glucose and triglycerides, depending on whether the last meal was fruit or meat. And that eating carbs all the time can flood the blood with glucose, leading to metabolic syndrome.

    But surely the brain needs glucose 24 hours a day? So how can glucose harm it?

  3. avatar Zoë says:

    Hi Tom – a couple of things.
    1) don’t confuse the brain needing glucose with needing to eat carbs. Here’s a great article by Mark Sisson explaining how the brain can fuel on ketones and how glucose can be produced with gluconeogenesis. (The ice age only ended c. 10,000 years ago and lasted approximately 30,000 years. Human access to carbohydrates would have been minimal or non existent and yet we survived – thrived indeed.)

    2) this is about too much glucose, not glucose per se. The average human needs 0.8-1.1 grams of glucose per litre of blood. The average human has c. 5 litres of blood, so that’s 4-5.5 grams of glucose in total that we should have in the blood stream at any one time. With glucose approximating to 4 cals per gram – that’s the equivalent of one teaspoon of sugar! Any more than that and the body will release insulin to turn the glucose into glycogen – the stored form of glucose – to extract ‘toxic’ glucose from the blood stream. When this process stops working properly and glucose is not effectively cleared from the blood stream, we describe the person as (type 2) diabetic. (Type 1 is when the process doesn’t work at all – usually a malfunction that occurs ‘overnight’ in children/teenagers – believed to be genetic/immune related rather than as a result of sugar consumption).

    Type 2 diabetes can be the result of too much sugar/too often and the body becomes first insulin resistant and then the glucose removal process becomes increasingly impaired and type 2 diabetes is diagnosed. When glucose remains in the blood stream beyond the level that should, we observe symptoms of type 2 diabetes – tiredness, low energy, energy swings, frequent urination, thirst, weight changes etc. The smart view on Alzheimer’s is that – just as the body exhibits symptoms of excess sugar in the body, so there will be signs of excess glucose in the brain. Foggy feeling, forgetfulness, disorientation – I have seen all of these in my type 1 diabetic brother when his blood glucose levels have been too high. He can appear drunk to the point of incoherence.

    Our current level and frequency of carb/glucose consumption is unprecedented. It makes complete sense to me that both human body and mind is suffering the consequences.
    Hope this helps
    Best wishes – Zoe

  4. avatar Helena Wojtczak says:

    Another genius article thanks Zoe. One small thing: “past time” — should be “pastime”.

  5. avatar Catherine says:

    I just had to add to this subject. I was flipping through a well-known women’s weekly magazine yesterday, and stopped at an article on Alzheimer’s, which included a section on “what you can do to minimise your risk”. My mother has Alzheimer’s, so I do have a vested interest. However, five minutes later, I yelled an unrepeatable swear word, and threw the magazine down in disgust. A woman, whose name currently escapes me, and who didn’t appear to have any qualification in anything, actually stated that “saturated fat strangles the cells in the brain” so therefore (natch!!) is best avoided at all costs. Clearly, this class ignoramus has no idea of what the brain actually consists, or she would never have considered such nonsense. I will rush home this evening and check out the article again for her name! Back tomorrow with an update!

  6. avatar Catherine says:

    Updating already! The lady in question is “best-selling author” Jean Carper, at one time a “medical journalist” for an American newspaper. Thus far, I have not been able to find any information on her that says she has any actual medical qualification. The quote I included earlier comes from her best-selling book “100 Simple Things You Can Do to Prevent Alzheimer’s”. You can also call up snippets from this book, which I did. I am still horrified.

  7. avatar Ted Hutchinson says:

    I agree with everything Zoe has said on this topic but I’d like to point readers to these free full text papers so they can think about some of the issues that may be involved in Alzheimer’s initiation and progression.
    High ferritin levels have major effects on the morphology of erythrocytes in Alzheimer’s disease.
    and
    Neuroinflammation and Copper in Alzheimer’s Disease
    It follows strategies that reduce copper/iron overload or reduce dangers from unbound iron may reduce chronic low level Neuroinflammation and so help prevent or delay the onset of AD.

    In addition to following The Harcombe Diet (THD), it may be sensible (for those concerned about the potential for high ferritin levels) to become regular blood donors so iron stores are regularly reduced (this particularly applies to post-menopausal women and men of any age)

    It may also be worth using Raw Milk (higher lactoferrin content in unpasteurized milk) or Lactoferrin supplements to help keep iron securely bound.
    GREEN TEA and Curcumin also help prevent iron/copper behaving badly.

    There are simple things we can and should be doing to reduce our risk of AD (and other conditions resulting from dysfunctional glucose metabolism) however I agree with Catherine that some of the suggestions in the book she referred to are only going to make matters worse.

    We need to build up our natural immune function (vitamin d, melatonin lactoferrin) not increase our reliance on antibiotics which reduce the diversity of our natural gut microbiota.

    Eating Apples will be much better than drinking apple juice.

    Bad fats are those omega 6 vegetable oils not saturated fats from pastured animals Jean Carper’s suggestion to “Buy low-fat or fat-free dairy products” is going to someone with a damaged brain more harm than good.

    I’m all for people reducing blood pressure naturally but I’d rather they raised potassium intake to the RDA than totally avoiding salt. I agree with her suggestion to “Give up sugary soft drinks – one study found more than two and a half soft drinks a day raised the risk of developing high blood pressure by 87 per cent” But I think reliance on pharmaceutical drugs to lower BP may not be a effective as using dietary/lifestyle strategies (See “Does treating high blood pressure do any good?” blog from Dr Malcolm Kendrick)

  8. avatar Elena Skok says:

    You know there are some men who do have too much iron in their blood – rarely women because many spend most of their life being borderline anemic due to menstruation and pregnancy and their iron levels remain low even into menopause. For those men though, there is an easy solution – donate blood at regular intervals. My dad is one of those guys who tended to have high iron levels in his blood and he went to the Red Cross and donated blood 3 – 4 times a year on the advise of his doctor. Problem solved. By the way the tannins in tea inhibit the absorption of iron, so if you are are trying to build your iron stores avoid tea when eating red meat/liver or taking your supplement, if you are trying to block absorption of iron, have tea after your steak!

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