Omega: What food mistakes did you make in the past that helped inform your current diet and recommendations?
Mark: Like most people, I believed that I should be eating a low-fat diet high in what we used to call complex carbs, like bread and pasta, which actually act just like sugar, or what we called simple carbs. I thought pasta was a health food and whole wheat bread was healthy. As I got older, I realized my body was getting flabbier, even though I was exercising. I began to look at the research on how our weight and metabolism works. Insulin is driven by all these starches and carbs, so I changed my diet to be lower in refined sugars, starches, and carbs, and I added foods that were higher in fat. It worked. My body leaned right up without really exercising. I realized that I was a very mild case of what’s been happening in America on a mass scale, and that’s really why I’ve focused so much on addressing the issue of what I call diabesity—insulin resistance that drives us to be overweight and causes diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and dementia (also known as Type 3 diabetes).
Omega: How has going through your own health struggles with chronic fatigue syndrome helped you in working with your patients?
Mark: I think it gave me a lot of compassion for patients who struggle with illnesses that are complex and confusing. As a patient, I know how daunting it was to get doctors to understand that I wasn’t making it up—that there really was some underlying cause that they couldn’t find. So now I work hard with my patients to find the root cause based on functional medicine, whether they're dealing with depression, dementia, or ADD. It’s really clear that we are living in a society that is not good for our brain. Most brain injury or damage is because of our diet, environmental toxins, chronic stress, or a whole series of insults, both self-imposed and related to the world we live in. I literally experienced symptoms of depression, ADD, and dementia all at once.
Omega: Can you talk about why some researchers are now calling Alzheimer’s disease Type 3 diabetes? What’s the link between Alzheimer’s and diabetes?
Mark: We know from the research that diabetics have four times the risk of getting dementia. The insulin-resistance mechanism has been identified, and insulin receptors are located in same part of the brain that supports memory. In addition, inflammation is a huge factor when it comes to Alzheimer’s. The thing that drives inflammation is sugar, carbs, and high levels of insulin, so that’s why doctors are focused on that. There's not just one cause of Alzheimer’s. Dementia is a symptom, and really there’s no such thing as dementia. There are dementias. Each has different causes and needs different treatment, and the treatment has to match the cause not the label. In fact, there may be dozens of different factors or causes that contribute to dementia.