The Blood Sugar/Brain Connection
A team of researchers from the United States, Israel, and Canada investigated A1C levels and cognitive function in almost 3,000 middle-age and older people with type 2 diabetes. They reported that higher A1C levels were associated with lower scores on four different tests to assess cognitive function, according to an article in the February 2009 Diabetes Care. Conversely, the best scores on the cognitive tests were in people with relatively low A1C levels.
That finding was echoed by a Canadian study, published in the January 2009 Neuropsychology. This time, researchers looked at 465 middle-age men and women, of whom 41 had been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Those with diabetes were slower and less precise in their responses to tests of cognitive function.
Low blood glucose can also be problematic. A study in the April 15, 2009, Journal of the American Medical Association, found that seniors with a history of hypoglycemic episodes were more than twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.
Bottom line: The evidence is piling up and it’s just more reason to do all you can to maintain good glycemic control.
Four keys to staying sharp
1. Focus on healthy eating habits. Opt for a wholesome, low-glycemic diet that helps you maintain optimal blood glucose control.
2. Consistently take your prescribed diabetes medications.
3. Incorporate some physical activity into your life. At the very least, go for a daily 30-minute walk. Building lean muscle tissue improves how your body utilizes both blood glucose and insulin.
4. Ask your doctor about having some nutrient level testing and taking vitamin supplements. Some studies suggest supplements of Vitamin E may help prevent certain types of dementia. One study at the University of Toronto found that vitamins C (1,000 mg) and E (800 IU) helped people with diabetes avoid mental fuzziness after eating a high-sugar, high-fat meal.
1 - Chui MH, Greenwood CE. 2008. Antioxidant vitamins reduce acute meal-induced memory deficits in adults with type 2 diabetes. Nutrition Research 28:423-429.
2 - Cukierman-Yaffe T, Gersteine HC, Williamson JD, et al. 2009. Relationship between baseline glycemic control and cognitive function in individuals with type 2 diabetes and other cardiovascular risk factors. Diabetes Care 32:221-226.
3 -Devore et al. 2010. Dietary antioxidants and long-term risk of dementia. Arch Neurol 67(7):819-25.
4 - Fischer AL, de Frias CM, Yeung SE, et al. 2009. Short-term longitudinal trends in cognitive performance in older adults with type 2 diabetes. Journal of Clincial and Experimental Neuropsychology epub ahead of print.
5 - Salthouse TA. 2009. When does age-related cognitive decline begin? Neurobiology of Aging 30:507-514.
6 - Whitmer RA, Karter AJ, Yaffe K, et al. 2009. Hypoglycemic episodes and risk of dementia in odler patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus. JAMA 301:1565-1572.
7 - Wu W, Brickman AM, Luchsinger J, et al. 2008. The brain in the age of old: the hippocampal formation is targeted differentially by diseases of late life. Annals of Neurology 64:698-706.
Reviewed by Jason Baker, M.D. 07/11
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I'm sitting waiting for a table at the cafe' for me and a friend who is running a bit late. Feeling a little off, I grab my test kit and poke my finger, getting a little blood droplet. "Does that hurt?" Asks the man sitting next to me. He's an older guy, with some pretty profound ear hair. I note the ear hair as I say "Sort of... I think I'm kind of used to it now. I've been doing it a long time." My sugar is a little elevated...