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More Evidence Memory Problems Linked to High Blood Sugar

Feb 21, 2014

High blood glucose affects brain’s hippocampus even in non-diabetics…. 

A recent study found that short and long term high blood sugars appear to affect memory negatively. Researchers looked at fasting blood glucose and hemoglobin A1c and established that both were connected to reduced performance on memory tests. More specifically, the study found that elevated blood glucose hurt patient’s learning, recall, and consolidation of memories.

In order to examine this correlation, researchers in the study took scans to assess the volume of each patient’s hippocampus. They focused on that part of the brain because it’s connected to long-term and short-term memory and is also particularly sensitive to high blood sugar levels. Poorer results on memory tests (and higher overall blood sugars) were associated with a smaller hippocampus, while lower blood sugars were associated with a bigger hippocampus. Study author Agnes Flöel said, "Elevated blood sugar levels may damage the outer membrane of the cells, or decrease neurotransmitter levels, which would disturb signaling within and between hippocampal cells. Information transfer between cells, which is indispensable for memory encoding, storage and retrieval, would then be compromised."

Past research has tended to focus on patients with diabetes or other metabolic disorders. This particular study excluded patients with type 2 diabetes, other severe diseases, and those with psychological illness. The subjects were in generally good health yet still showed memory effects with higher blood sugars. The purpose of this was to prove that controlling high blood sugars are important for diabetics and non-diabetics alike.

Practice Pearls:
  • Increasing evidence shows that high blood sugars affect all aspects of a patient’s health.
  • High blood glucose readings were associated with a smaller hippocampus (the area of the brain connected to long and short-term memory)
  • Controlling high blood glucose is important for all people and not just those diagnosed with diabetes