High Glucose a Risk Factor for Dementia

September 21st is designated World Alzheimer’s Day. In recognition of this today’s post will review research on the effects of glucose on dementia.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. Statistics from the CDC indicate as many as 5 million Americans are currently living with Alzheimer’s disease. This number is expected to reach 14 million people by 2060.

It is important to consider that Alzheimer’s disease is not a normal part of aging. There is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s, so recognition of risk factors as a potential strategy for prevention is important.

A research group affiliated with the University of Washington, the Swedish Neuroscience Institute, Harvard Medical School and Harvard School of Public Health and Wake Forest School of Medicine performed a study examining the relationship between glucose levels and risk of dementia.

Enrollees for the study were selected from the Adult Changes in Thought study, which consisted of randomly selected members from Group Health Cooperative in Washington State. These members were all considered to be dementia-free. There were 2067 participants, 839 men and 1228 women, whose mean age was 76 years.

Study subjects were assessed every two years to look for incident cases of dementia. The Cognitive Abilities Screening Instrument was used. Average glucose levels were calculated for each subject at initiation into the study, and then in 5 year rolling periods thereafter. Mean follow-up period was nearly 7 years.

The researchers discovered that among those subjects with diabetes, those with higher levels of glucose had increased risk for dementia. For example, the risk for dementia was 40% higher in those with average glucose of 190 mg/dl compared to 160 mg/dl. 

Even more important, among the subjects without diabetes, those with an average glucose level of 115 mg/dl had an 18% higher risk of dementia compared to those with an average 100 mg/dl glucose level.

The last result bears repeating, in participants WITHOUT diabetes, a 15 mg/dl difference in glucose (115 vs 100) led to an 18% increased risk of dementia. This particular result may indicate that early interventions to lower blood glucose, while one is still in the insulin resistance stage and not advanced into full blown diabetes, may lower the risk of dementia.

At this time there is no cure for dementia. Alzheimer’s disease and dementia in general have a profound impact not only at the individual level, but also on the individual’s caregivers. Perhaps incorporating a low-carb lifestyle may be a strategy to prevent future dementia.

“The power of intuitive understanding will protect you from harm until the end of your days.”–     Lao Tzu

(Source- New England Journal of Medicine, 369.6)

This blog is a review of published medical and scientific literature, and should only be used for informational purposes. It does not constitute medical or health advice, nor does it create a physician-patient relationship with anyone. Discuss any health concerns with your personal physician.

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