Simpson (2007) stated that the average person spends approximately 20-25 years asleep by age 70, and suggested that sleep quality and duration are essential to the maintenance of neurological function. Conversely, lack of sleep has been correlated to higher levels of inflammatory markers, in addition to compromised immune function, body temperature, renal function, and memory (Simpson, 2007). Most importantly, lack of sleep per night need not be extensive to elicit unfavorable results; Simpson (2007) stated that only one night of poor sleep was enough to drive inflammatory markers (natural killer cell activity, monocytes, lymphocytes) in addition to a general (non-specific immune response) up-regulation of the immune system.
Another study revealed that low to moderate sugar consumption (in the form of a sugar-sweetened beverage at 40g/day) in young healthy men showed increases in low-density lipoprotein (LDL), fasting glucose, and C-reactive protein (a marker of inflammation). Such results were found in only 3 weeks of consumption among 29 subjects, and represented only 6.5% of total daily caloric consumption (Aerberli et al., 2011). Moreover, SSBs were also found to increase the risk insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes (T2D) (Aerberli et al., 2011). Such use of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) is relevant because they are the most commonly consumed liquids in the United States and other Westernized worlds (Aerberli et al., 2011).
Refined carbohydrates have also been strongly associated with insulin resistance, obesity, and inflammation (Alarcon et al., 2014). Alarcon et al. (2014) also stated that refined carbohydrate consumption was part of a larger set of factors, which induced inflammation: lack of calcium, magnesium, vitamin D, and omega-3 fatty acids were also implicated as they assist in metabolic pathways of insulin action. Although the research of Alarcon et al. (2014) focused on pre-pubertal children, it is likely that such nutritional habits would have similar impacts on the elderly.
In conclusion, poor sleep, SSBs, and consumption of refined carbohydrates all drive inflammation and have been associated with insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. Such knowledge should make one more aware and vigilant when working with elderly individuals with insulin resistance, since insulin resistance is closely related to Alzheimer’s disease and dementia (Hammaker, 2014). Having considered the deleterious affects of poor sleep/refined foods/SSBs, it is also likely that eliminating the same may help in the management and possible reversal of AD and dementia.
Aerberli, I., Gerber, P. A., Hochuli, M., Kohler, S., Haile, S. R., Gouni-Berthold, I., … Berneis, K. (2011). Low to moderate sugar-sweetened beverage consumption impairs glucose and lipid metabolism and promotes inflammation in healthy young men: A randomized controlled trial. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 94(2), 479-485.
Hammaker, B. G. (2014). More than a coincidence: Could Alzheimer’s disease actually be a type 3 diabetes? Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology, 28(9), 16-18.
López-Alarcón, M., Perichart-Perera, O., Flores-Huerta, S., Inda-Icaza, P., Rodríguez Cruz, M., Armenta-Álvarez, A., … Mayorga-Ochoa, M. (2014). Excessive refined carbohydrates and scarce micronutrients intakes increase inflammatory mediators and insulin resistance in pre-pubertal and pubertal obese children independently of obesity. Mediators of Inflammation, 2014, 1-7.
Simpson, N. (2007). Sleep and inflammation. Nutrition Reviews, 65(12), S244.