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Your Food May be Giving You Alzheimer’s

Article at-a-glance:

  • Fructose is 80% sweeter than table sugar and used in many prepared foods.
  • Many added sugars contain fructose, so learning how to spot it is important.
  • Fructose causes fatty liver, obesity, heart disease and is now thought to be a prime contributor to Alzheimer’s disease.
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By Dr. John Neustadt

Everyone knows how important a good diet is to overall health. I’ve written many blogs about how diet influences mood, heart health, blood pressure, bone health, and sleep. But a new study should concern everyone. 

Fructose is a sugar naturally found in fruit. When consumed in whole foods, the amount of fructose is relatively small and fiber in the food slows down how quickly the fructose is absorbed into the body and bloodstream. But in the last several decades, fructose has become a ubiquitous, inexpensive sugar used to sweeten packaged foods. A 12-ounce can of cola contains nearly 22 grams of fructose. 

Hidden Sources of Fructose

Even if you don’t drink soda, you may be shocked to know how much you’re getting, since fructose is added to: 

      • Ketchup
      • Cereal
      • Baked goods
      • Candy
      • Applesauce
      • Crackers
      • Processed, flavored oatmeal
      • Cold cuts
      • Canned fruit
      • Peanut butter
      • Flavored milk
      • Salad dressing
      • Canned soups

Identifying Fructose on Labels

And that’s the short list. While people may recognize that high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) on a label means there’s fructose in it, there is a long list of other sweeteners that also contain fructose. They are:

      • Honey
      • Agave syrup
      • Invert sugar
      • Maple-flavored syrup
      • Molasses
      • Palm or coconut sugar
      • Sorghum
      • Sucrose (table sugar)

What it Does to Your Body

Sucrose contains 50% fructose and 50% glucose, so if you think switching to common table sugar is healthier, it’s not. Manufacturers use fructose because it’s up to 80% sweeter than table sugar (sucrose) and doesn’t increase blood sugar or insulin as much as sucrose. Therefore, people think it must be healthier. However, sugar has many other actions in the body besides raising blood sugar, and fructose’s long list of dangerous health impacts is growing. 

A 2009 article concluded that two-thirds of fructose in people’s diets is coming from packaged foods, and causes or increases the risk for:1  

      • Fatty liver
      • Obesity
      • Diabetes
      • Cardiovascular disease
      • Elevated triglycerides
      • Metabolic syndrome

And now we can add Alzheimer’s disease to that list. In the prestigious American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, a review article looked at how fructose changes a person’s biochemistry and contributes to Alzheimer’s disease.2  

Fructose is not processed the same as glucose, the primary sugar found in your blood and used for energy production in your body. Diets high in sucrose and fructose (eg, HSCS) have been associated with increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease, and fructose is elevated in the brains of people with the disease. In fact, the authors speculate that increased fructose consumption over the last several decades may be one of the main culprits in the epidemic of Alzheimer’s disease we’re now seeing. 

A Healthier Way of Eating

The solution is to eat more whole foods with a plant-forward diet. Unlike the Standard American diet, which is associated with an increased risk, the Mediterranean Diet is the only diet associated with a decreased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. 

The Mediterranean diet is rich in healthy vitamins like vitamin E and vitamin C, minerals, and other plant nutrients. It also contains higher amounts of omega-3 fatty acids than the Standard American Diet. 

The Mediterranean Diet has been studied for more than seventy years and is associated with decreased risk for:

If you’re not already following a Mediterranean diet, use my three-step process that I’ve taught to thousands of patients to transition into eating this way, feel better and reduce your risk for chronic diseases. 

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1. Bantle JP. 2009;139(6):1263s-1268s. 

2. Johnson RJ, Tolan DR, Bredesen D, et al. 2023/01/11.

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