Glucose levels and brain health: Research shows even normal levels contribute to brain aging


Even normal blood sugar levels can contribute to brain ageing and atrophy, concluded a team of scientists at the Australian National University (ANU) after observing a relationship between brain shrinkage and glucose levels. Authors of the new study believe that their analysis should encourage the public to adopt healthier lifestyle habits such as regular exercise and following a diet consisting of more fruits and vegetables.

Lead author and post-doctoral research fellow at ANU, Dr. Erin Walsh said she and her team saw how blood glucose impacted the brains of all people, and not just those with Type 2 diabetes.

She writes: “People without diabetes can still have high enough blood glucose levels to have a negative health impact. The research suggests that maintaining healthy blood glucose levels can help promote healthy brain ageing. If you don’t have diabetes it’s not too early and if you do have diabetes it’s not too late.”

The study, entitled, “Too sweet for our own good: An investigation of the effects of higher plasma glucose on cerebral health.” was published in Diabetes and Metabolism.

Previous studies on blood sugar and brain health

This is not the first time that scientists have seen a link between blood sugar and mental outcome. A 2009 study in Diabetes Care concluded that patients with Type 2 diabetes and its other complications such as cardiovascular disease had a significantly increased risk of developing problems with thinking and memory in only a few short years.

A later study, done in 2015, supported this finding, adding that higher blood sugar levels were associated with a worsening of cognitive function. Authors of this study noted that the increased risk rises as much as eight percent once a person becomes diabetic.

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Scientists still do not understand the exact mechanisms involved in the relationship. One hypothesis is that sugar levels gradually damage the small arteries of the brain, eventually causing tissue death and even ministrokes. This leads to gradual memory loss. Diabetic patients likewise develop insulin resistance which disrupts the neural pathways in the brain. There is also evidence that suggests that diabetes-related inflammation can develop amyloid plaques in the brain, contributing to Alzheimer’s-like symptoms.

Even so, diabetic patients are not the only people at risk. Having extremely low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) can also affect mental health. People with hypoglycemia typically have seizures or lose consciousness quite often. Prolonged and continued experience of these seizures can dramatically affect how the brain functions. Elderly people especially are reported to have difficulties recovering from a hypoglycemic event.

Maintaining stable blood sugar levels naturally

It is important that you know how to stabilize your blood sugar levels all throughout the day. Learning how to master these levels will control unhealthy cravings, manage weight, and improve mood. Nutritionists have noted that processed foods release energy too quickly, causing a spike in blood sugar levels, which inevitably drop down causing what is known as a “sugar crash.” Diet plays an important role in balancing your blood sugar. Here are a few eating tips to consider.

Eat protein – Protein releases energy slowly, making you feel fuller longer.
Check for the glycemic index – As much as possible, try consuming foods that score low on the glycemic index. Typically this includes leafy vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds.
Avoid sugar and refined carbohydrates – These are the biggest culprits of blood sugar spikes.
Reduce or avoid stimulants – Coffee or cigarettes cause blood sugar levels to rise due to the adrenaline rush.

Scientists are of one voice in their conclusion that diabetes and its related conditions can be prevented by taking particular care of blood sugar levels. You can read more articles about the metabolic condition and what can be done to prevent it at DiabetesScienceNews.com.

Sources include:

ANU.edu.au

Health.Harvard.edu

MindBodyGreen.com

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