The Connection Between Sugar Intake and Dementia Strengthens

There is no denying the link between poor health and a high intake of sugar, especially in terms of diabetes and Alzheimer’s.

Referred to by some as ‘type 3’ diabetes, it appears that a sugary diet may lead to symptoms of Alzheimer’s. In that sense, Alzheimer’s may simply be another side effect of a nutrient-void, high-sugar Western diet.

Study Finds — Individuals with High Blood Sugar Showcase Faster Rates of Cognitive Decline

As published in Diabetologia, researchers followed 5,189 people over the course of ten years. What they found was that in comparison to individuals with normal blood sugar, those with high blood sugar experienced a faster rate of cognitive decline.

Those living with prediabetes and diabetes experienced an increased rate of decline in relation to memory, orientation, and executive function. The researchers concluded that there was a link between HbA1c levels, diabetes status, and long-term cognitive decline.

Further research is now needed to determine the effect of optimal blood glucose control on the rate of decline among individuals with diabetes.

The Connection Between Diabetes and Dementia

Over the past few years, several theories have emerged regarding the link between dementia and high blood sugar. Some of the potential variables explored in the past include, but are not limited to:

  • Diabetes weakens one’s blood vessels. This increases one’s risk of a stroke and in turn, the potential development of various types of dementia. In this case, brain cells die due to a lack of oxygen.
  • Linked to insulin resistance high resting blood sugar affects all cells — including those in the brain. This may lead to cell death and in turn, significant cognitive decline. This is also connected to the effect of oxidative stress.
  • Sugar’s effect on obesity and in turn, the brain. Obesity not only causes a wide range of health complications, including high blood sugar and hypertension, but it can also lead to increased levels of inflammatory proteins. Obesity may also lead to elevated levels of amyloid proteins in the brain.

Researchers have often stated that the brains of Alzheimer’s patients appear to be in a diabetic state. When studying Alzheimer’s patients, it has become clear that sugar is not used properly in the brain. Since this may lead to cell death, the brain’s ability to communicate is then significantly affected.

Related Research — A Public Health Warning

Upon conducting a basic search, you will be able to find dozens of studies that link diabetes to dementia. Although each specialized study focuses on varying theories and potential factors, the majority yield a similar message. Diabetes is a risk factor for dementia — and lifestyle factors play a key role.

Within one 2016 review, published in Diabetes Care, the researchers observed data from 14 studies. This review included data on 2,320,330 individuals and 102,174 dementia case-patients. The researchers concluded that diabetes increased one’s risk of dementia by 60 percent. Observed in men and women, women displayed a 19 percent greater risk for vascular dementia in comparison to men.

Type 2 diabetes is associated with a more than two-fold greater risk of dementia, but what about type 1 diabetes? In a 2015 study, published in The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association, researchers explored this potential relationship.

After studying 230 individuals with type 1 diabetes, it was found that these individuals were 83 percent more likely to develop dementia in comparison to healthy controls. After adjusting for stroke, peripheral arterial disease, and hypertension, they were 61 percent more likely.

Controlling Diabetes to Better Protect the Brain

Although future studies will continue to uncover clues, in terms of proactive action there is no better time than the present to improve your health. If you were recently diagnosed with diabetes, it is imperative that you get your condition under control as soon as possible.

In terms of your diet, the majority of recommended foods to better control blood sugar levels will also help protect the brain. This is why you should consume more whole foods, including avocados, dark leafy greens, wild salmon, quality olive oil, turmeric, green tea, coconut oil, beans, nuts, blueberries, and other nutrient-dense foods. Avoid processed foods.

If you are currently overweight and are struggling to make these changes, reach out to a certified nutritionist and trainer. The sooner you get your weight under control, the sooner you will reduce your risk of associated complications. You should also consult your physician before you make any changes.

Remember, all of the things that are good for your heart and blood sugar management, also benefit your brain. From regular exercise to stress management, various factors appear to play a role.

To find out more, please refer to the following articles:

Krista Hillis has a B.A.Sc degree, specializing in neuroscience and psychology. She is actively involved in the mental health and caregiving community, aiming to help others. Krista is also passionate about nutrition and the ways in which lifestyle choices affect and influence the human brain.

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