201120 Is too much blood sugar shrinking your brain?

Is too much blood sugar shrinking your brain?

A study, published in Neurology, suggests there is an association between high blood sugar on the high end of normal and brain shrinkage. This shrinkage happens to occur in the areas of the brain “associated with memory and thinking” according to Dr. Gad Marshall. He is a neurologist at Harvard affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Previous research has already revealed links between high blood sugar, type II diabetes, and brain shrinkage.

This study has found that people whose fasting blood sugar levels are at the high end of normal also have a higher possibility of brain shrinkage. After fasting, defined as six hours or more without eating or drinking anything with calories, the normal fasting blood levels are between 70 to 100 mg/dL. You have prediabetes if your fasting blood sugar levels are 100 to 125 mL per deciliter. At this point, you have increased your possibility of developing diabetes. Any fasting numbers above 126 mg/dL indicate you probably already have diabetes.

Dr. Marshall says in the article that even though we’ll have to wait a little bit longer until more research confirms the study’s findings, he sees these preliminary results as a red flag. “Having a high normal glucose level at age 60 or older can potentially serve as a useful marker of impending neural degeneration.”

He recommends the Mediterranean diet as one that will help prevent the cognitive decline that often shows up with aging. If you are unfamiliar with the Mediterranean diet here are a few highlights.
To get started with the Mediterranean diet, plan on eating as naturally as possible with unprocessed foods such as fruits, whole grains, nuts, and vegetables. Cut back on the unhealthy fats and begin using olive oil as your principal source of dietary fat. Begin easing back on the amount of red meat you eat monthly by substituting it with moderate amounts of fish.

Also included in this diet is drinking a moderate amount of wine per day. This means about two glasses a day for men and one for women.

More about Dr. Gad Marshall


Research Narrative: I received my medical degree from Boston University School of Medicine in 2000. I subsequently developed my interest in Alzheimer’s disease during neurology residency in Pittsburgh, under the guidance of Drs. Daniel Kaufer, Nicolaas Bohnen, and Steven DeKosky, and dementia fellowship in Los Angeles, with Drs. Jeffrey Cummings and Harry Vinters as my mentors. This has led me to my current faculty position at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital, where I have had the fortune of working with Drs. Reisa Sperling and Keith Johnson, focusing on clinical trials and neuroimaging biomarkers in the Alzheimer’s disease spectrum.

I am currently Associate Medical Director of Clinical Trials at the Center for Alzheimer Research and Treatment at Brigham and Women’s Hospital; Associate Neurologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital; Assistant in Neurology at Massachusetts General Hospital; and Assistant Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School. I have been site principal investigator for multiple clinical trials of amyloid-modifying drugs in Alzheimer’s disease. My research has focused on clinical correlates of activities of daily living, apathy, and executive function with PiB and FDG PET and CSF biomarkers. Most recently, I have been exploring the association between instrumental activities of daily living, executive function, and PiB PET in mild cognitive impairment. Building on my previous work, I am now developing a new scale of complex activities of daily living that will detect the earliest functional deficits at the stage of preclinical Alzheimer’s disease.

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