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Brain Tissue Loss Linked to Diabetes

Researchers in Spain used MRI scans on the brains of 614 people who had diabetes for an average of 10 years (Radiology, published online April 29, 2014). They showed that:
* The longer a patient has diabetes, the smaller his brain, particularly in the gray matter that interprets and directs muscle control, seeing and hearing, memory, emotions, speech, decision-making and self-control. Diabetics lose brain size more than twice as rapidly as non-diabetics.
• The longer a person has diabetes, the more likely he is to suffer dementia.
• For every ten years a person had diabetes, his brain appears to be two years older than the brain of someone without diabetes.
• The higher the average blood sugar and/or fasting blood sugar, the greater the loss of brain size.

Memory Loss and Smaller Brains Linked to High Blood Sugar
Researchers in Germany measured short term rises in blood sugars (fasting blood sugar) and long term blood sugars (Hemoglobin A1C) and found that higher levels of each are associated with loss of memory and learning and smaller brain size than in people who are not diabetic (Neurology, published online October 23, 2013).

Even if you are not diabetic, you can develop a high rise in blood sugar after you eat. Higher blood sugars can remain for a short time or they can stay elevated all the time. The researchers measured fasting blood sugar levels to see if blood sugar remained elevated in the morning before breakfast, and used the HBA1C test to see if their blood sugar levels remained high for two or three months.

Brain scans showed that a person with higher blood sugar levels, even for just a few hours, has a smaller hippocampus, the place where you process both short and long-term memory. People with higher blood sugar levels did more poorly in memory tests. This shows that controlling blood sugar levels is important for non-diabetics as well as for diabetics.

What these Studies Tell Us
Even if you do not have diabetes, high rises in blood sugar can damage every cell in your body to increase risk for heart attacks, kidney failure, strokes, dementia and premature death. When blood sugar levels rise too high, sugar sticks to the outer membranes of cells. Once there, sugar can never get off. It is converted by a series of reactions to sorbitol, a sugar alcohol that destroys cells. High rises in blood sugars are caused by:
• eating too much sugar in sugar-added foods and sugared drinks including fruit juices, refined carbohydrates, red meat and fried foods,
• not eating enough fruits and vegetables,
• not exercising,
• being overweight, and
• not meeting your needs for vitamin D.

Checked 4/9/16

May 4th, 2014
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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