Dementia risk may be raised by eating popular food, study suggests

Conceptual image of clinical research to develop a possible cure for Alzheimer's and dementia
High blood sugar levels may negatively impact the brain -Credit:Getty Images

A study has linked sugar to decreased brain function caused by dementia.

Research, published in BMJ in January has found that type 2 diabetes patients who exhibited cognitive impairment (CI) had higher blood sugar levels, as well as a weaker management of their condition.

The NHS says dementia affects over 900,000 people - around one in 11 aged over 65 - in the UK. Dementia is a collective term for a group of conditions that impact the brain - with Alzheimer's being its most common form.

Many of its symptoms are debilitating and include memory loss, difficulty concentrating, poor judgement, difficulty completing tasks and mood changes. But one of the more unusual warning signs is exhibiting strong sugar cravings, according to the Broadgate General Practice.

High blood sugar levels are not just seen in diabetics, as they can be raised in people without the condition after eating sugary foods. This is not to say that you are destined to suffer from dementia if you have a sweet tooth, but the latest findings do strengthen support for sugar's negative impact on the brain.

Woman checking blood sugar levels
Diabetics need to check their blood glucose levels regularly to make sure everything is at a safe level -Credit:Getty Images

To come to conclusions, scientists examined 350 hospitalised middle-aged participants who all had type 2 diabetes. The aim was to identify risk factors for cognitive impairment through patients who exhibited it and those who didn't.

Results showed that 38.9 percent of subjects with a median age of 58 years exhibited cognitive decline in varying stages. Independent risk factors seen in these participants for CI included age, blood sugar levels, high waist circumference, high Body Mass Index (BMI) or weight levels, as well as less management of their condition.

Those with cognitive impairment had also experienced hypoglycaemic episodes within three months of examination, while cerebrovascular disease (CVD) - which affects blood flow to the brain - was also found to be a risk factor.

In contrast, those who exhibited weight management, strong diabetic dietary patterns - or ate a healthy diet to manage their condition - were found to be more protected from cognitive decline. Researchers found that those who controlled their diabetes less made fewer visits to their doctors, but higher admissions to hospitals and emergency rooms.

Findings show that waist circumference combined with high BMI may be good indicator of cognitive impairment, all though experts say more research is needed.

Early dementia warning signs to look out for

Although the early signs vary, Better Health Channel states common early symptoms of dementia include:

  • memory problems, particularly remembering recent events

  • increasing confusion

  • reduced concentration

  • personality or behaviour changes

  • apathy and withdrawal or depression

  • loss of ability to do everyday tasks.

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