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High Blood Glucose Levels Linked with Impaired Brain Function, Dementia Risks

Updated on November 20, 2016
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Dr. John uses skills in Biochemistry, Physiology (PhD) to review topics on mental health, depression, sleep, stress, setting positive goals

Glucose is one of the great paradoxes. Glucose is essential as the fuel to keep the brain functioning. But if the level of glucose in the blood gets too high the brain can get damaged. High glucose levels are a 'tell tale' sign of diabetes, which develops when insulin release is reduced and the body can not regulate glucose levels properly.

Diabetes has been shown to increase the risk of Alzheimer's disease by by 65 per cent. Recent studies have shown that the damaging effects of elevated glucose levels can occur even when they are at the high end of normal, but not high enough to be diabetes.

The dementia risk appears to be correlated with glucose levels in the blood over the full range.

Recent research conducted in Australia and highlighted these risks.

The Mediterranean Diet has high carbohydrate, but it is derived from whole grains and vegetables
The Mediterranean Diet has high carbohydrate, but it is derived from whole grains and vegetables | Source

Recent Research Findings

The so-called Sydney Memory and Ageing Study is monitoring brain function of over 1000 people, conducting brain function of physiology tests every two years.

The study group found that in the 70-to-90-year-old age group with 880 subjects, people with diabetes had clear signs of cognitive impairment and shrinkage of the brain.

Significantly, people with abnormally high levels of blood glucose, but who did not have diabetes, also had two symptoms of damage caused by elevated blood glucose: inflammation and oxidative stress.

Both these processes can cause damage to brain cells and decline in cognitive function.

In a sense, elevated blood glucose may be an early warning sign of impending damage and increased risk.

Declines in the sense of smell may also be an early warning sign for dementia.

Early intervention, to keep glucose levels down by eating the right food in a balanced diet and exercise, may give people a better chance of avoiding dementia or at least slowing down its development.

What Changes in Diet are Required to Keep Blood Glucose Levels Under Control?

There has been a considerable change of thinking about diets and dieting, away from low-carb and low-fat diets. There is clear evidence that such diets are ineffective.

The trend in dieting has shifted away from What Not to Eat to What Should You Eat.

Choosing the right carbohydrates in a balanced a good diet appears to be much more effective. Refined carbohydrates and high levels of sugar in the diet can cause high peaks in the blood sugar levels. However, it is not the carbohydrates themselves which are the problem.

The Mediterranean diet which has been shown to be beneficial for brain function and general good health includes a lot of carbohydrates but they are in the form of whole grains, vegetables and legumes.

The fiber and complex form of carbohydrate means that the glucose from digestion is released more slowly, without the peaks that occur with processed carbohydrate.

The Mediterranean diet also includes fish and seafood that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for the brain.

While changes in diet may not prevent dementia, there is good evidence that its onset may be delayed.

Eating a diet rich in vegetables, whole grains, fish, olive oil and small amounts of lean meat may be good for brains. Regular exercise, and keeping weight under control, helps as well.

© 2014 Dr. John Anderson


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  • FlourishAnyway profile image

    FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

    I have read the studies and it's concerning. Glad you gave it some attention here.