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Keeping sugar levels down may help prevent Alzheimer’s

Harold Mandel's picture

Researchers say they have determined there is a "tipping point" which is linked to Alzheimer’s disease.


Alzheimer's is a tragic kind of dementia which is associated with difficulties with memory, thinking and behavior. The irreversible nature of the advanced stages of this illness makes prevention highly desirable. The finding by researchers that there is a link between high blood sugar levels and the development of Alzheimer's leads to the consideration that keeping sugar levels down may help prevent this disease.

A “tipping point” for sugar is linked to Alzheimer’s disease

The University of Bath reports on the finding by scientists that what they have termed a “tipping point” for sugar is linked to Alzheimer’s disease. These scientists have determined excess glucose causes damage to a vital enzyme which is associated with an inflammation response from the early stages of Alzheimer’s.

It has been well established that abnormally high blood sugar levels, or what is called hyperglycaemia, is seen with
diabetes and obesity. However the link between hyperglycaemia and Alzheimer’s disease has not been as well established.

Diabetes increases the risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease

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There is an increased risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease in patients with diabetes. There are abnormal proteins which aggregate to form plaques and tangles in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s. It has been known that glucose and its break-down products can cause damage to proteins in cells due to a reaction which is called glycation. Scientists have now determined in the early stages of Alzheimer’s an enzyme which is called MIF (macrophage migration inhibitory factor) is damaged by glycation. MIF has a role in the immune response and regulation of insulin.

Professor Jean van den Elsen, from the University of Bath Department of Biology and Biochemistry, says MIF is modified by glucose in the brains of people with early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Investigations are now underway to determine if similar changes can be predicted in the blood.

Generally MIF is a part of the immune response to the build-up of abnormal proteins in the brain. Elsen says because sugar damage decreases some MIF functions and totally inhibits others that this could turn out to be a "tipping point" that sets the stage for Alzheimer’s to develop.

There is potential for new treatments and prevention strategies for Alzheimer's

Dr Rob Williams, who is also associated with the Department of Biology and Biochemistry, has said that this new understanding about the progression of Alzheimer’s may help identify people who are at risk for Alzheimer's. This may also assist in developing new treatments or ways in which to prevent this illness.

This study has been published in Scientific Reports. Researchers have determined that MIF which is modified by glucose may be a molecular link between hyperglycaemia, oxidative stress and dysregulation of the immune system as seen in Alzheimer's.

It has been highlighted by Dr Omar Kassaar, who is from the University of Bath, that excessive sugar is well known as a culprit in the development of diabetes and obesity. The new finding of a potential link between hyperglycaemia and Alzheimer’s disease offers us another compelling reason to carefully watch how much sugar we consume. A firm commitment to lowering levels of sugar consumption has the potential to pay off with a much healthier body and mind.