Keeping good control of blood sugar levels is important to prevent cognitive decline in older age even among people without diabetes, according to new research.
Studies have previously linked poor blood sugar control in people with diabetes to an increased risk of brain conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, but never before by using HbA1c. This is a test which provides a measure of average glucose sugar levels over a three-month period.
Scientists from Imperial College London found that higher HbA1c levels among older people with and without diabetes were associated with heightened cognitive decline, measured by tests of memory, cognition and executive function.
“Our findings suggest that interventions that delay diabetes onset, as well as management strategies for blood sugar control, might help alleviate the progression of subsequent cognitive decline over the long-term,” said the researchers.
A standout takeaway message from the study is that eating high-sugar and too many high-carb foods is likely to be bad for us whether or not we have diabetes.
“Just because you don’t have type 2 diabetes doesn’t mean you can eat whatever carbs you want,” said epidemiologist Rosebud Roberts from the Mayo Clinic, who wasn’t involved in the study, in an interview with The Atlantic.
“Especially if you’re not active. [What we eat is] a big factor in maintaining control of our destiny.”
The study team monitored 5,189 people, all of whom were aged 50 or older, who had participated in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. Their cognitive function was measured between 2004-2005 and 2014-2015, as well as their HbA1c levels.
More and more research is revealing that sugar has an enormous impact on the human brain when consumed regularly, and our Low Carb Program has demonstrated how cutting out sugar and reducing intake of high-carb and processed foods can help people reduce their risk of type 2 diabetes and even put the condition into remission.
While the mechanisms between high blood sugar levels and cognitive decline are not yet fully understood, the findings are fascinating. Future studies will aim to explain these results in greater detail.
The findings appear online in the journal Diabetologia.

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