September 22, 2014

Lower Blood Sugar = Better Memory Prospects

The lower your blood sugar, the less likely you are to develop memory problems. Even for healthy adults without glucose issues or diabetes, memory function increases as blood sugar levels decrease.

Those conclusions were published in the American Academy of Neurology’s journal Neurology.

On a less-is-more kick for some time now, I ditched the blood pressure meds months ago and then my statin meds for cholesterol just last week. Now, though my blood glucose numbers are pretty good, I’ll do my best to reinforce sugar’s place on my less-is-more list. (Clarification: As I'll report in a new post, I've gone  back to taking a blood pressure med now but to address a specific problem.)

With her team, Dr. Agnes Flöel from Charité University Medicine in Berlin, Germany, gathered 141 people who did not have diabetes or pre-diabetes (also called impaired glucose tolerance). These subjects – average age 63 – were not overweight, did not drink more than three-and-a-half servings of alcohol per day, and did not demonstrate any memory or cognitive impairment.

Subjects were given a list of fifteen words. Half an hour later, they were asked to recall those words. The results showed an association between higher blood sugar levels and reduced memory.

Diminished Memory and Smaller Hippocampus
More specifically, an increase of about seven mmol/mol of HbA1c -- a long-term marker of glucose control – correlated with recalling two fewer words. Examinations also showed that the test subjects with elevated glucose levels had smaller hippocampus regions in their brains... the region most associated with memory. 

In addition, based on DTI (diffusion tensor imaging) measurements, the researchers found that the microstructural integrity of the hippocampus was higher when blood sugar levels were lower.

Dr. Flöel wrapped it up this way:
These results suggest that even for people within the normal range of blood sugar, lowering their blood sugar levels could be a promising strategy for preventing memory problems and cognitive decline as they age.

Why not take these results to heart? There’s everything to gain (strengthened memory function) and nothing to lose (except a few excess pounds).

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I saw the results of this study in a story – Less Sugar, More Memory -- in the September 12, 2014 edition of I dug a bit deeper and discovered that the study results had first been published in the journal Neurology on October 12, 2013. I’d missed the news about the study then, even though it got some media attention. The National Academy of Neurology issued a press release about the study. And – among other outlets -- Science Daily wrote about it in a story titled "Lower blood sugars may be good for the brain."

A few months ago, I wrote another related piece, Sugar, Blood Glucose, Diabetes... and Food Labels.

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