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Keep Your blood sugar down, it improves memory

Robin Wulffson MD's picture
Avoid memory problems with a healthy diet

Glucose is the fuel that keeps one’s brain humming along; however, a new study has found that elevated blood sugar—even for those who are not diabetic—can cause memory problems. The study was conducted by researchers at the Charité University Medicine in Berlin, Germany. It appeared on October 23 in the journal Neurology.

The study group comprised 141 individuals with an average age of 63 who did not have diabetes or pre-diabetes; both of these conditions are also termed impaired glucose tolerance. The subjects were limited to a healthy group of individuals. They were not overweight, they did not drink more than three-and-a-half servings of alcohol per day; and they had neither thinking nor memory problems. The investigators tested the participants’ memory skills were tested, together with their blood glucose, or sugar, levels. The subjects also underwent brain scans, which measured the size of the hippocampus area of the brain, which plays an important role in memory.

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The researchers found that individuals with lower blood sugar levels were more likely to have better scores on the memory tests. On a test where participants needed to recall a list of 15 words 30 minutes after hearing them, recalling fewer words was associated with higher blood sugar levels. For example, an increase of about seven mmol/mol of a long-term marker of glucose control called HbA1c coincided with recalling two fewer words. People with higher blood sugar levels also had smaller volumes in the hippocampus.

“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,” explained study author Agnes Flöel, MD. She added, “Strategies such as lowering calorie intake and increasing physical activity should be tested.”

Take home message:
An interesting aspect of this study is that it was conducted on a generally healthy population that were neither obese nor diabetic. Maintaining a normal blood glucose level is a component of a healthy lifestyle. This can be accomplished by sticking to a diet low in refined sugar products such as sugary soft drinks. In addition to a healthy diet, one should exercise his or her brain on a regular basis. Some individuals have an occupation that requires a high degree of cognitive thinking while many do not. Numerous ways are available to improve cognition. The key is to find one that you enjoy. Many hone their thinking on a daily basis with crossword puzzles or other word games.

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