Monday, November 13, 2017 by Zoey Sky
If you’re craving something sweet, grab an apple instead of a bar of chocolate. A group of scientists has recently discovered a link between high glucose levels in the brain and symptoms of memory loss, which could lead to Alzheimer’s.
The brain breaks down glucose, or sugar in its most basic form, and it is used to provide energy to make the brain function. However, individuals with brains that had a hard time breaking down glucose showed more signs of brain plaques and tangles, which are indicators of Alzheimer’s. (Related: High sugar-based diet, obesity strongly linked to causing Alzheimer’s and dementia.)
According to the scientists, the study has proven a significant link between high levels of glucose in the brain and the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. Individuals with brains that were less efficient at breaking down glucose showed worse outward dementia symptoms like memory loss, which is often associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Since the research is still in its early stages, it remains to be seen why being bad at breaking down glucose results in plaques and tangles.
Dr. Madhav Thambisetty, at the National Institute of Aging (NIA) in the U.S., studied brain tissue samples from autopsies collected by the Baltimore Longitudinal study on Aging. The study is part of a research project that is looking into the health conditions of people over several decades. Along with his colleagues, Thambisetty is studying areas of the brain that are vulnerable to plaques and tangles, such as the frontal and temporal cortex, both of which are necessary for memory and language.
The researchers also observed areas of the brain that could resist these features, like the cerebellum, which is responsible for movement, muscles, and muscular activity. The scientists determined that individuals with more severe Alzheimer’s had a harder time with glycolysis, or the breaking down of glucose needed to produce energy.
Both the slower rate of glycolysis and higher brain glucose levels were linked to more severe plaques and tangles in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s. The former was also connected to symptoms of the disease like memory problems.
Richard J. Hodes, the director of the NIA, shared that researchers have already considered the possible connection between how the brain processes glucose and the disease. He added, “Research such as this involves new thinking about how to investigate these connections in the intensifying search for better and more effective ways to treat or prevent Alzheimer’s disease.”
Dr. Clare Walton, the research manager at Alzheimer’s Society, said, “The link between how well the brain uses glucose and Alzheimer’s disease is not new – in fact we’ve been using brain scans that show changes in glucose use to study the disease for more than 30 years. What we don’t know is whether changes in brain glucose metabolism play a role in causing or worsening Alzheimer’s disease or whether the changes are just a by-product of damage already occurring to brain cells.”
Walton believes that the revolutionary research is studying glucose metabolism in a unique way by examining the brain tissue of people who have already passed away, and that it points to “changes in the pathways that transport and use glucose in the brain cells,” which happen when Alzheimer’s progresses.
She concluded, “As these changes appear to precede the onset of dementia symptoms, they should be further investigated.”
Aside from limiting sweet treats that you consume, here are some tips you can try to lower your blood sugar: