A poor diet is not good for your body, or your brain. Added sugar is one of the single greatest dietary problems we face, not only because sugar is added to so many things but because it’s so addictive we can get hooked on it and actively seek it out!
A new study in Neurology helps elucidate exactly how sugar damages our brain. It suggests that eating a lot of sugar or other carbohydrates can be hazardous to both brain structure and function.
Diabetes, which is characterised by chronically high levels of blood glucose, has been linked to an elevated risk of dementia and a smaller hippocampus, a part of the brain critical for memory. This new study sought to identify whether glucose had an effect on memory even in people without the disease.
In the experiment, researchers at the Charité University Medical Center in Berlin evaluated both short- and long-term glucose markers in 141 healthy, nondiabetic older adults. The participants performed a memory test and underwent imaging to assess the structure of their hippocampus (this part of the brain is critical for remembering!).
Higher levels on both glucose measures were associated with worse memory, as well as a smaller hippocampus and compromised hippocampal structure.
These findings indicate that even in the absence of diabetes or glucose intolerance, higher blood sugar may harm the brain and disrupt memory function. An earlier study demonstrated that high blood sugar can actually shrink your whole brain, not just your hippocampus! Future research will need to identify how glucose exerts these effects and whether dietary or lifestyle interventions might reverse such pathological changes. Let’s hope so!
[Source: Scientific American Volume 25]