Too Much Sugar Could Be Harming Your Brain
You probably know that a diet high in sugar can lead to health problems such as diabetes, but did you know that those health problems also include dementia, which is directly linked to high blood sugar? About 6.8 million Americans have some type of dementia, and it is believed that 1 in 10 of those cases is directly linked to high blood sugar (or diabetes). In 2014, 29.1 million (9.3%) Americans had diabetes and a staggering 86 million Americans had prediabetes. Scientists believe that there is a strong connection between diabetes and the development of dementia.
In a 2013 study published in The New England Journal of Medicine, results showed that higher glucose levels can be a risk factor for dementia, even in people who don’t have diabetes. Any diet high in sugar can increase your risk of developing some form of dementia, and if you have uncontrolled type 2 diabetes, you have a 50% higher risk of developing dementia.
During the study mentioned above, researchers tracked the glucose levels of 2,067 participants in Washington state for seven years. Of those participants, a few had type 2 diabetes, but most of them didn’t. None of the participants had dementia at the beginning of the study. Throughout the length of the study, participants received glucose tests and reported to Group Health for cognitive screening. A quarter of the participants developed some type of dementia during the course of the study.
In order to have accurate information from their study, researchers compared their data with other risk factors linked to dementia, including high blood pressure and smoking. The researchers found that the risk of developing dementia continually increased in those participants who had higher blood sugar levels, but the risk decreased in those who had lower blood sugar levels. This was also true when glucose levels were higher by even a slight amount.
While scientists are not sure of the exact causes of Alzheimer’s disease or even what the link is between Alzheimer’s and diabetes, they do know that there is a connection between high blood sugar and Alzheimer’s disease. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, high blood sugar can lead not only to the development of diabetes, but to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke, an unbalance in brain chemicals from too much insulin and inflammation in the brain. Scientists believe these factors related to high blood sugar may play a role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
Whether you do or don’t have diabetes, keeping your blood sugar in check is still an important part of reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease as well as other health problems. Thirty minutes of daily exercise and a diet rich in whole grains, vegetables and other foods (including the use of sugar substitutes in place of white sugar) low on the glycemic index will help maintain your blood sugar. If you are interested in some new food options for keeping your blood sugar in check, download our cookbook, which is full of tasty, sugar-free recipes.