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Medicine Science

Researchers Find More Evidence For the Strange Link Between Sugar and Alzheimer's (sciencealert.com) 99

schwit1 shares a report from ScienceAlert: People with high blood sugar stand to experience worse long-term cognitive decline than their healthy peers, even if they're not technically type 2 diabetic, new research suggests. The findings are not the first linking diabetes with impaired cognitive functions, but they're some of the clearest yet showing blood sugar isn't just a marker of our dietary health -- it's also a telling predictor of how our brains may cope as we get older. "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," explain the researchers, led by epidemiologist Wuxiang Xie from Imperial College London. The researchers sourced their data from the English Longitudinal Study of Aging, an ongoing assessment of the health of a representative sample of the English population aged 50 and older, which began in in 2002. For its analysis, the team tracked 5,189 participants -- 55 percent women, with an average age of 66 years -- assessing their level of cognitive function between 2004-2005 to 2014-2015, spanning several waves of the ELSA study. The findings are reported in the journal Diabetologia.
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Researchers Find More Evidence For the Strange Link Between Sugar and Alzheimer's

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  • No shit Sherlock (Score:5, Informative)

    by niittyniemi ( 740307 ) on Tuesday January 30, 2018 @08:04AM (#56032083) Homepage

    This is little more than confirmation of what was already known:

    Diabetes damages your vascular system. Even if your blood glucose control is excellent, you will still get periods when your BG goes high and your blood vessels will get deposits on their walls and hence restrict supply of oxygenated blood to the tissues that require it.

    The results are systemic. If you don't get enough oxygen to tissues that need it, they will die. That includes not only the well recognised bits that get damaged by diabetes: retinas, kidneys, feet etc. but stuff that most medics don't recognise: the rest of your body including your brain.

    I speak with some experience: I'm an insulin-dependent diabetic. I've got a loss of feeling in my feet although my retinas are still reasonable.

    Yet there must be ongoing damage to the fine vasculature in my nut. My experience of living with people who have dementia is that the effects are insidious and you don't initially notice it. It's effects have an exponential progress, IMO.

    I'm 55 now but I reckon within 10 years, I'll be too bonkers to put finger to keyboard. I hope to die before then.

    • Re:No shit Sherlock (Score:5, Informative)

      by Bongo ( 13261 ) on Tuesday January 30, 2018 @08:12AM (#56032107)

      There's quite a few people out there, from various scientists to doctors to members of the public, doing some form or low carb, paleo, primal, and even zero carb, and finding that they thrive on it (yes very controversial as it means public health advice for last 30 years has been wrong, but that's progress).

      Basically, don't eat sugar, or stuff that turns to sugar, and body does not then have to deal with damage from sugar.

      Recently I have gone zero carb [1] and I just cannot get my head around how my body simply had no need for any sugar or carbs at all.
      Naturally people have to experiment for themselves to see if this is also true for them.
      Get a blood glucose meter, and wake up feeling fine on say, 4.0 mmol/l or 72 mg/dl

      [1] More or less, there is the odd gram of a carb in cream cheese and so on.

      • by Gilgaron ( 575091 ) on Tuesday January 30, 2018 @09:12AM (#56032291)
        It isn't too surprising, eating carbs is popular because societies that could grow them outcompeted those that couldn't. If you can feed your army grain then you're going to have a bigger better army than the guys eating venison and roots since your foodstuffs are more dense in calories and keep longer. Rationing during wartime comes to mind, too. But the carbs are really just the barest energy for your body, so if you skip them you're not missing out. For the counter example you can look up rabbit starvation, but that doesn't really apply in modern times since it is easy to get some fat or fruits or veggies, but shows a situation where having carbs would be a boon. Societies are shifting from keeping anyone from starving (where carbs are king, dollar for calorie what could compare? Perhaps insects?) to optimizing for health, which will lean towards more expensive foodstuffs.
        • > If you can feed your army grain then you're going to have a bigger better army than the guys eating venison and roots s

          You can also grow far more food on less fertile land, transport it to troops, and store it for winter.

      • You'll still die in the end ;)

        Keto might work fine, but in the end it's a diet for rich people and it's hardly the only diet with massive improvements over the mean. The Okinawa diet works fine too. Europe and Asia were on carb heavy diets long before the diabetes, heart attack and dementia epidemics, though we consumed less sucrose/fructose/glucose and meat of course.

        Keto might be a solution to individuals, but as a health plan for society it's unsuitable. Carbs are the staple, it's the only way the world

        • Re:No shit Sherlock (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Bongo ( 13261 ) on Tuesday January 30, 2018 @09:50AM (#56032461)

          Maybe, but have you, for a counter example, seen Allan Savory's talks? That most of the world's land is unsuitable for agriculture, but it is suitable for grazing, and that's our place on the food chain, to eat the flesh of animals, who can graze and use their digestive systems to convert all that energy in ways we cannot do, with our small digestive systems. So in that model, it is actually grain that's the expensive food, it is just that industrialised petrochemical heavy farming made it look cheap, and ignores the externalities (god I hate that word) of bad health, and diabetes epidemics, which may bankrupt health systems. The human model is more like, some Massai guys wandering around with nothing more than goats. And assuming you are not in arid lands, those goats will eat anything.

          • I understand capitalism. Meat is expensive, if the level of land available could make it cheap it would be cheap.

            Massai are still healthy even after transitioning to a 50% cornmeal diet.

            • by Bongo ( 13261 )

              I am not sure where you get this idea that meat is expensive. I don’t mean eating expensive steaks all the time. Bacon, eggs, liver, heart, cream, butter - - these are not expensive items. Part of what capitalism does is try to create demand for products which are not necessarily good but nevertheless which it can mass produce and get a monopoly on, and for decades we have been taught to eat “healthy” grains, so I am not sure that this means grains are inherently cheap or meat is inherentl

      • by swb ( 14022 )

        I think true zero carbs is nearly impossible without an extremely restricted diet. I think you're still about the same on the "spare change" carbs in a slightly wider diet even though you might hit 20g carbs in a day. A lot of it is locked up in fiber or feels like a byproduct of the chemistry used to assess carb content (ie, when you get 1g carbs from some seafood).

        For me personally, I found it kind of hard to sustain over a long time period (past 2 years). I found that my dietary choices became really

      • by ledow ( 319597 )

        Well... I'm sure that it gets looked at but it's nowhere near the accepted medical advice yet. If *you* claim it, you don't get sued for the next 50 years for the damage of you being wrong, but they do. Of course they move slower, but that's because they test it first.

        That said, I basically live off sugar... enormous amounts, and carbs through the roof.

        I once bought myself a blood glucose meter (not a cheap one, the proper diabetes-user ones) because I had a few odd symptoms (and ANY symptom is an odd sym

        • Re:No shit Sherlock (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Bongo ( 13261 ) on Tuesday January 30, 2018 @10:00AM (#56032505)

          I basically ate a lot of sugar for 20 years, so I think I am one of those people who, perhaps like you, can shunt all that sugar out of the bloodstream, in vast quantities.

          But low blood sugar does not tell you how much insulin you had to produce to achieve that. And there's some thinking that high insulin is in itself damaging.

          And eventually, when the ability to produce that insulin craps out, then the blood sugar goes up and the the doc will worry about pre-diabetes.

          But that is so far down the road already, towards bad health, that it is a sort of double edged sword I guess -- low blood sugar looks great, but meanwhile, insulin resistance is creeping up on the body.

          • by Baavgai ( 598847 )

            eventually, when the ability to produce that insulin craps out, then the blood sugar goes up and the the doc will worry about pre-diabetes.

            No exactly. Type 2, the kind everyone has who was actually born with a functioning pancreas has, is not a failure to produce insulin so much as a failure to process it. It is called insulin resistance. There is actually so much insulin being pumped out that the liver gives up and the insulin receptors become less receptive. In response to this, the pancreas pumps out more insulin and you get a nasty feedback loop.

      • Basically, don't eat sugar, or stuff that turns to sugar [...]

        Are you aware that ultimately everything we eat gets turned into glucose with digestion, yes?

        Recently I have gone zero carb [...]

        If you really mean no fruit and no vegetables: how healthy do you think it can be in the long run?

        RT.

        • by Bongo ( 13261 )

          Basically, don't eat sugar, or stuff that turns to sugar [...]

          Are you aware that ultimately everything we eat gets turned into glucose with digestion, yes?

          Recently I have gone zero carb [...]

          If you really mean no fruit and no vegetables: how healthy do you think it can be in the long run?

          RT.

          I'm aware protein is used to make glucose. If fat is also converted... well, that's new. But in any case, point is, body can make its own glucose, so you don't need to eat any, assuming there has been enough time for the body to convert and get used to burning fat for energy. Of course if you want to do a 200m sprint then maybe you want carbs to help. But generally, if blood sugar levels are normal with zero carbs eaten, then what do you think is happening to all the carbs you would eat?

          The fruit and vegeta

      • "Paleo" is nonsense. Low carb or low sugar diets may make sense, but Paleo isn't even well-defined. Almost none of our modern food cultivars resemble their paleolithic counterparts and already by the paleolithic different locations have wildly different diets. See this excellent talk for a good primer https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BMOjVYgYaG8 [youtube.com].
        • by Bongo ( 13261 )

          True, and I agree it would be a mistake to try turn it into simple minded notions like, paleo man did not drink tea so we do not drink tea. Rather, it is simply a hint about, well, if a food is relatively new, we might not be adapted to eat it, or maybe as it happens it’s fine anyway. We can already see today that different populations seem more or less susceptible to various problems. So, generally, there is the broad view that for 2 million years we developed on meat, and ten thousand years ago we s

        • by Moridineas ( 213502 ) on Tuesday January 30, 2018 @10:57AM (#56032809) Journal

          Paleo may be nonsense, but if you avoid the crazies (and there are certainly no shortage of them) and just think of it as the "in general, foods that are less processed are better for you" diet, you're probably off to a good start.

      • My mom got me to read a book on the negative impacts of sugar years ago and it was pretty eye opening. Sugar is really bad for you in a surprising number of ways so I don't doubt the claim. Unfortunately given the last 50 years of food consumerism and various sugar lobbies, it is pretty hard to avoid sugar without being pretty drastic (i.e. avoiding all and any kind of processed food). Not only that, but it is the naturally occurring sugar in "refined" products. One in particular that got my attention was t

      • Re:No shit Sherlock (Score:4, Interesting)

        by ArhcAngel ( 247594 ) on Tuesday January 30, 2018 @12:05PM (#56033251)
        I have suffered with adult onset depression for 30 years. Last year a friend from HS talked me in to switching to a ketogenic (75% fat, 20% protein, 5% carb) diet. I was extremely skeptical but within a week the depression was gone! I started digging and found all sorts of peer reviewed research tying depression, dementia, and loss of cognitive function to a high carb diet yet I had never heard about it from any medical or nutritional professional. Most doctors have barely a cursory training in nutrition and that training is that fat kills! And it is WRONG! I've spent the last 6 months telling anybody who will listen. I am in better physical shape now than I've ever been and feel wonderful. I hope this message starts getting heard more.
      • by Zorro ( 15797 )

        Say hello to the best food for you in the world, THE EGG!

        Turns out the experts were just as wrong about eggs as they were about trans-fats.

        And eggs aren't even expensive or hard too cook.

      • I just cannot get my head around how my body simply had no need for any sugar or carbs at all.

        Because your body is an omnivore, and it is good at thriving under a wide variety of different diets.

      • zero carb

        Try participating in an endurance sport on zero carbs and tell us how you do.
        Nevermind, that was rhetorical; I know how you'll do: at best you'll plod along at a slow pace, unable to do better, because using bodyfat exclusively to supply your muscles with the fuel they need is a slow process. Furthermore your brain runs on glucose. So-called 'keto' diets are not sustainable nor are they healthy.

        By the way I am an endurance athlete (race bikes). If I didn't understand proper nutrition I wouldn't be succes

        • by Bongo ( 13261 )

          zero carb

          Try participating in an endurance sport on zero carbs and tell us how you do.
          Nevermind, that was rhetorical; I know how you'll do: at best you'll plod along at a slow pace, unable to do better, because using bodyfat exclusively to supply your muscles with the fuel they need is a slow process. Furthermore your brain runs on glucose. So-called 'keto' diets are not sustainable nor are they healthy.

          By the way I am an endurance athlete (race bikes). If I didn't understand proper nutrition I wouldn't be successful at it at all, nor would I have the low bodyfat percentage I have -- and I'm 53 years old in less than 2 weeks.

          The key to this subject is pretty much the same as it is for so many things: moderation is the key. You do not have to eschew sugar (or as you say 'anything that turns to sugar, which is all carbohydrate sources) entirely 'to be healthy', you just have to be sensible about it.

          It is common wisdom amongst sports people. Including South African sports scientist Tim Noakes, who runs and advises sports teams. He wrote the Lore of Running, and when he had his realisation, he had to tear out the chapter on carb loading. In a recent podcast he talks about recent research,

          "I have just come from a conference where my team presented on low carb diets, and we had a world class triathlete there who'd converted, and we in fact did an experiment on him, and we did show that if he ate a little

      • by Baavgai ( 598847 )

        Same experience, here. Doc says your A1c is 10, here come the drugs. I say give me 90 days. After 90 days, zero carbs, a little fasting, and fewer pounds, that number was under 6. Keep up the good work.

        For anyone on the high blood sugar train wreck, which is a least half of Americans, a low carb diet should at least be considered. This is not junk science; every study you can find supports this. However, healthy diets don't sell drugs.

    • Take heart! Several people in my family have been, and are, insulin-dependent diabetics. Dementia is not inextricably linked to the disease, as our family's 80 year old matriarch (20 yrs insulin dependent, 2nd pacemaker) is still as sharp as ever, reads every day, remembers what she had for breakfast last Thursday, and that stupid thing you did 30 years ago.

      Aging and physical degradation are as inevitable as death, yet poorly understood. As far as we know, there has never been a time on Earth when so many

      • It didn't say 'inextricably linked,' merely noted a probability. A single, personal anecdote cannot be used to counter a large, long-term study like this.

        • It didn't say 'inextricably linked,' merely noted a probability.

          Post was in the spirit of optimism. Please discontinue reading if it causes vertigo, nausea, or cantankerous behavior.

          A single, personal anecdote cannot be used to counter a large, long-term study like this.

          Are you sure? Millions of people discount scientific studies every day in favor of thousand year old fables...

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Alzhiimer's seems to be distinct. But I've been a Type 1 diabetic nearly 50 years, and I do have some signs of "vascular dementia" well ahead of my age peers. It's embarrassing, my IQ was 147 on the old Stanford-Binet test, and I had a cold that day. And for Type 1's like myself, it's not just the hyperglycemia vascular damage affecting kidneys, eyes, skin, etc. after decades of insult. It's the occasional hypoglycemia with poor control. I estimate that I've probably been knocked unconscious from hypoglycem

    • by kaybee ( 101750 )

      So many diabetics have a much better life on the Keto diet. And if you have type 2 then you can eliminate medication on the Keto diet. Might be a better option than hoping to die in the next 10 years.

    • There's no need to die from it. Go on Facebook and look for a group called Reversing Diabetes. It has like 40-45K members. It doesn't "cure" diabetes so don't get hung up on the name, but the "way of eating" WOE if followed, will roll back your A1C to a 4.5 to 5. Then your body will heal.
      • Just to clarify, you will eat 20 carbs a day, make up for the difference in fats plus some protein. The fats have double the calories compared to carb and require no insulin to metabolize like sugar does. Since I started this my chroniclly swollen retina went back to normal and after years of monthly injections, I haven't had one in a year. She also used to complain about seeing cholesterol in my eyes and all year they have been clean. Even if you do this part way, you are looking at much improvement. Also,
    • Try the Wim Hof method for beneficially stressing your vascular system. Check out the book What Doesn't Kill Us...
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Presumably, the brain tissue is changing all the time. I wonder, perhaps the human brain "on sugar" changes more frequently, or, quicker, such that bad habits or a living a life with a lazy sophisticated intellect or maybe a dulled emotional life have the effect of leading to an impaired brain in the long run I am wondering, as people get older, more lazy, or perhaps. Thinking that, as senility sets in (simply getting old, unlike 'dementia'), the brain facing a more stumped life with less impulses, less in

  • Already Well Known? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ytene ( 4376651 ) on Tuesday January 30, 2018 @08:38AM (#56032175)
    Isn't this something that has been reasonably well understood for some time?

    For example, see here:-

    http://neuro.hms.harvard.edu/h... [harvard.edu]

    IIRC, the brain is pretty much the only organ in the body able to directly ingest and consume glucose from the blood stream; all the other parts of the body have to wait for glucose to be broken down into simpler compounds which they can then use. However, it's also been widely known that an overdose of glucose in the blood can be unhelpful/harmful. But it's one of the reason that people who conduct intellectually demanding work - i.e. work with a dependency on lots of cognitive processing - have a sweet tooth.
    • by ledow ( 319597 )

      "Well known" versus proven is a very different thing.

      The number of well conducted, long-term, dietary-monitoring studies of people with such conditions is vanishingly small.

      Though, indeed, we suspect such conditions to be almost "diabetes of the brain", that's a relatively recent development in terms of anything but absolute conjecture.

      Using that information also doesn't necessarily help anyone - by the time you have symptoms, it's almost certainly too late to do much about it.

      But that the mechanism is some

    • Nah, pretty much everything can use glucose, and red blood cells really are dependent on it (no mitochondria), but your liver can make it. The brain can run pretty well on ketones.
    • Reasonably understood? Perhaps, but the sugar and soda industries have poured a lot of money into research about the effects of saturated fats on heart and blood vessel health, and this has completely muddied the discussion. Butter has gotten a very undeserved bad rap in public discourse. Luckily in the last two decades there have been some high impact articles showing that saturated fats have very little to no adverse effects on cardiiovascular diseases, whereas carbohydrates do have, a very marked negativ

  • Not sugar, not carbs ... fasting blood sugar levels. Not the same fucking thing.

    • The high blood sugar is usually the result of high dietary sugar.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Type 2 diabetics can have chronically elevated blood sugar with no dietary sugar at all. Most food is broken down to glucose for energy, and the brain certainly needs it. The resistance to insulin for diabetics not only allows their blood sugar to rise with no extra dietary sugar, but with only normal dietary starches and other carbohydrates. The elevated insulin levels make these people hungry. For some Type 2 diabetics, the diabetes came *first* before they started eating more and gaining weight. The leth

    • by kaybee ( 101750 )

      Eating lots of sugar and carbs is a huge factor in becoming a type 2 diabetic, which then means your body isn't able to regular blood sugar as effectively.

      Additionally, even in a healthy person, eating sugar causes spikes in blood sugar level. Your body corrects for it quickly but it almost certainly causes more damage than somebody who avoids eating sugar.

  • The result is not surprising. Glucose is a chemically reactive molecule, it binds with various tissues in the body, harming them in the process. The process is called glycation [wikipedia.org].

    With diabetes, glucose levels are always high, and the damage is maximum. But even without diabetes, more glucose spikes will cause more damage . It is not surprising the brain also takes its toll in the process.

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