High blood sugar levels increase the risk for dementia even among people without diabetes, according to new research published online in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Diabetes has long been associated with an elevated risk of Alzheimers and other forms of dementia. But this new US study suggests that blood glucose levels that are high but not high enough to be classed diabetic may also be a risk factor for memory loss.
The study, conducted by experts at the University of Washington in Seattle, involved 2,067 people aged 65 and older, of which 232 had diabetes at the outset.
During nearly seven years of follow-up, the researchers reported that 32% of those who were diabetic at the start of the study and 25% of the non-diabetics had developed some form of dementia, mainly Alzheimer’s disease.
After adjusting for other dementia risk factors including age, sex, blood pressure, smoking, exercise and coronary and cerebrovascular diseases, they found that elderly people without diabetes who had an average blood sugar level of 6.4mmol/L over the previous five years were 18% more likely to develop dementia than those with an average reading of 5.5mmol/L.
Among those diagnosed with diabetes (defined as having a fasting blood glucose concentration of 7mmol/L), higher average glucose levels were also related to a greater risk of dementia. The researchers noted that a blood glucose level of 10.5mmol/L led to a 40% increased risk of memory loss compared with average blood sugars of 8.9mmol/L.
Lead author of the study Dr Paul Crane, of the University of Washington and the Group Health Research Institute in Seattle, said: “These data suggest that higher levels of glucose may have deleterious effects on the aging brain.
“The most interesting finding was that every incrementally higher glucose level was associated with a higher risk of dementia in people who did not have diabetes. There was no threshold value for lower glucose values where risk levelled off.”
He cautioned, however, that because of the observational nature of the research, it is unclear whether any changes a person makes to lower their blood sugars would lead to a reduced risk for dementia.

Get our free newsletters

Stay up to date with the latest news, research and breakthroughs.

You May Also Like

Twice daily dairy intakes could reduce type 2 diabetes risk

Eating cheese, yoghurt or eggs twice a day could help lower the…

Public Health England considers low carb approach for type 2 diabetes

The low carb approach is being considered by the government to be…

Conversation about doctors’ appointments occurring virtually rumbles on

More than half of GP appointments are still being delivered remotely in…