Diabetes and the brain

It’s National Diabetes Week

We are witnessing an epidemic of Type Two diabetes. It is known as the illness often associated with obesity and a sedentary lifestyle. Some people also know that an erratic blood sugar and diabetes puts you at increased risk of heart disease, eye problems and poor circulation to limbs, associated in some cases with ulcers, even amputation.

But did you know there is a strong association between Type Two Diabetes and neurodegenerative disease? It is a known risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease.

It is predicted that 1 in 3 Americans will have Type Two Diabetes by 2050.

Recent studies indicate that the longer you live with diabetes, the higher the amount of grey matter loss or atrophy.
For every 10 years of known diabetes duration, the brain of a person with diabetes looked two years older than that of a non-diabetic person.  

The researchers noted that small blood vessel disease is not so much a problem of diabetes in the brain indicating that it is Alzheimer’s dementia rather than vascular dementia that is linked primarily to the condition.

But if you have high blood pressure associated with diabetes than the increased risk is of both Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia.

If you don’t have diabetes that’s good. But one of the reasons so many of us are developing the condition is that we are often unwittingly consuming vast amounts of sugar that has been added to processed foods.

Every can of soft drink contains up to 10 teaspoons of sugar. You probably wouldn’t put that much in a cup of tea or coffee.

Many foods that are “fat free” or “reduced fat” have extra sugar added to them to make them more palatable. Artificial sweeteners fool the brain into adding to the sweet cravings, so should be avoided.

And it is amount of sugar being added in those unexpected places such as savoury foods that are shocking.

If you look to cook up a quick and tasty supper using a jar of your favourite sauce, just read the label to see how much sugar you are adding. It’s not unusual for example for a single jar of stir-fry sauce to contain as much as 25 teaspoons of sugar.

The best way to manage your sugar intake is not add extra and to look for natural unprocessed food wherever possible.
If in doubt: read the label!
One way to protect your brain is simply to avoid too much sugar and definitely avoid developing Type Two Diabetes by keeping your weight in the healthy range and doing some regular exercise every day.

 

Refs:

Bryan R.N. et al (2014) Effect of diabetes on brain structure: The action to control cardiovascular risk in diabetes MRI imaging baseline data. Radiology. 2014 Apr 14 (Epub ahead of print)

Jack, C.R et al (2014) Association of type 2 diabetes with brain atrophy and cognitive impairment Neurology April 1, 2014 vol. 82 no. 13 1132-1141

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