Sugar and Alzheimer's Disease
3 minutes read

Sugar and Alzheimer's Disease

By: Melissa Mitri, MS, RD

Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of cognitive decline, affecting 10% of people over 65 years old and 40% of people over 85. While there are many possible Alzheimer’s risk factors leading to its development, sugar intake may play a role.¹ 

Alzheimer’s is a neurodegenerative disease that impacts a person’s memory, language, comprehension, attention, and reasoning. The most prevalent symptom of Alzheimer’s is memory loss for a short period of time.  

It is currently thought that the rates of Alzheimer’s will continue to rise, with an estimated increase of four times by 2050. As the most common form of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease costs the U.S. healthcare system an estimated $236 billion in direct healthcare and long-term care costs per year.2,3

In addition, Alzheimer’s also puts significant stress on caregivers both emotionally and financially. Caregivers may be forced to reduce their work hours, take a leave of absence, or quit their paid jobs completely to provide full-time care for their loved one without pay. Taking care of those with Alzheimer’s also creates emotional distress, as watching a loved one lose their memory and cognitive abilities can be sad and frustrating.

Let’s talk about how Alzheimer’s develops, the link between sugar and Alzheimer’s disease, and how you can reduce sugar intake as one key habit to lower your risk.


What is Alzheimer’s Disease?

Alzheimer’s is a progressive neurological disease that affects memory, thinking, and behavior and is the leading cause of dementia.4

As the disease develops, plaques called amyloids build up in the brain, leading to the gradual loss of nerve function. This causes the brain to shrink, resulting in a subsequent decline in cognitive function and accelerated brain aging.5


Alzheimer’s Risk Factors

There are many possible causes of Alzheimer’s such as advanced age, family history and genetics, lifestyle, and overall brain health.6

Age: This is the most significant risk factor, where the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s doubles every five years after age 65.6

Genetics: Family history and genetics play a role, but specific genes are also associated with a higher risk.6

Lifestyle: Certain lifestyle factors such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking can up the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Eating too many highly processed foods, saturated fat and sugar specifically, is also linked to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s.6

Brain health and injuries: Head injuries and brain health conditions may also contribute to Alzheimer’s development.6


How Alzheimer’s Affects the Brain

Alzheimer’s develops due to amyloid plaque buildup in the brain, strings of amino acids (protein-building blocks) that lead to progressive problems in brain function.7

Alzheimer’s typically progresses over several stages and affects different parts of the brain in the process:8,9

  • Early stages: Begins with memory loss and learning impairments.
  • Moderate stage: Impairments in spatial memory, judgment, and language.
  • Advanced/severe stage: More severe cognitive decline, loss of body functions, inability to feed themself, and difficulty communicating or recognizing loved ones.

While this disease is progressive once it’s past a certain stage, managing your sugar intake can be an effective tool for Alzheimer’s prevention.


Sugar Intake and Alzheimer’s Disease

If you’re concerned about Alzheimer’s disease, tackling your daily sugar intake is a great place to begin. Several studies over the past few years point to an association between high sugar intake and an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. 

Too much-added sugar found in many sweets, baked goods, and beverages can increase inflammation and blood sugar levels, increasing the risk of Alzheimer’s.

One large study involving over 37,000 women was conducted, where those consuming more than 10 grams (2.4 teaspoons) of sugar per day had the largest risk for Alzheimer’s. Other studies showed a similar connection, especially in those with the most total sugar intake as well as sugar intake in the form of beverages like soda and juice.10,11,12

Moving toward a no-added-sugar lifestyle can help you gain better control over blood sugar levels and enhance longevity, which may lower the risk of developing Alzheimer’s.13


Why Alzheimer’s is Called Type 3 Diabetes

You’re probably most familiar with type 1 and type 2 diabetes, but have you heard of type 3 diabetes? While not yet an official medical diagnosis, type 3 diabetes refers to the hypothesis that insulin resistance in the brain can cause Alzheimer’s disease. 

Many people have underlying diabetes and don’t know they have it. Over time, untreated diabetes and high blood sugar can lead to blood vessel damage in the brain and eventually, brain cell death as these brain cells receive very little oxygen.14,15

High blood sugar can also trigger inflammation, which can lead to insulin resistance and cause damage to brain cells.16

Additionally, sugar can also increase oxidative stress in the brain. This type of stress can up the risk of heart complications which are also Alzheimer’s risk factors, such as high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.17

One recent study showed older adults with the highest sugar intake were twice as likely to develop dementia during the follow-up period.18

While more research is needed to confirm the concept around type 3 diabetes, managing blood sugar levels as part of a healthy lifestyle may prevent or delay Alzheimer’s progression.19


Lifestyle Changes to Prevent Alzheimer’s

Healthy lifestyle practices are the cornerstone of Alzheimer’s treatment. Here are several factors that can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s.

Healthy diet

A nutritious MIND diet, which is the Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay, is a blend of the Mediterranean and DASH diet for high blood pressure. Combining these two diets results in a diet low in sodium, sugar, and saturated fat but high in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. 

Eating a highly nutritious and antioxidant-rich diet like this is associated with a lower risk of cognitive decline. It is also equally as important to minimize intake of added sugar and saturated fat from sweets, baked goods, sugary beverages, processed meat, fried foods, and full-fat dairy, which can contribute to inflammation in the brain.16,20,21,22

Regular exercise

Several studies show regular exercise, even at a lower intensity, can reduce the likelihood of Alzheimer’s by as much as 45%! And aside from just Alzheimer’s prevention, regular exercise may also delay progression of the disease in those in the early stages.23

For example, a research review showed those with Alzheimer’s in the early stages of the disease especially saw increased blood flow, brain volume, and new brain cell generation after regular exercise.24

It doesn’t have to be intense movement either if that’s not your thing - just a daily walk or bike ride can do the trick.

Mental Health

Depression and impaired mental health can impair memory, thought processing, and decision-making ability. Several recent studies show a connection between depression, cognitive decline, and Alzheimer’s.25

Taking care of your mental health through regular self-care, talk therapy, and medications if needed can help support optimal mental well-being and your overall health.

Staying Social

Socializing is not just fun - it’s a must for your cognitive health. Studies have found being socially isolated can increase a person’s risk for dementia. There are several potential reasons for this, but feeling isolated or lonely can up your risk of depression and cognitive decline.26 

Being social doesn’t have to mean large crowds. If you prefer a smaller group, you can simply stay connected with close family, friends, and neighbors to keep your brain cells sharp and happy.


Reducing Sugar Intake to Lower Alzheimer’s Risk

While there are many healthy lifestyle habits to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s,  reducing your sugar intake is an impactful place to start.

To reduce sugar in your diet, start by lowering your intake of sweetened yogurts, baked goods, sugary drinks, and ice creams made with added sugar. 

But it’s not about avoiding treats - it’s about choosing more wisely! Luckily, there are delicious frozen treats out there that fit a no-added-sugar lifestyle, like Keto Foods products.

So, the next time you’re craving a frozen treat without the risk, look no further than Keto Food's no-added-sugar products, such as Keto Foods Ice Cream Pints and Ice Cream Bars.



This information is not intended to prevent, diagnose, prescribe, or treat any illness or condition, nor does it take the place of sound medical advice. You should always seek out your own medical care and determine the best diet and course of treatment for your unique health needs.



  14. ​​ 


  • Alzheimer’s is a neurodegenerative disease that impacts a person’s memory, language, comprehension, attention, and reasoning.
  • Alzheimer's risk factors include age, genetics, lifestyle, and brain injuries
  • By choosing a no added sugar diet, you may be able to reduce your risk of Alzheimer's

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