Category: Nutrition

How Blood Sugar Relates to Brain Size and Function

In a recent edition of the journal Neurology, German researchers evaluated the size of the brain’s memory center, the hippocampus, using a specialized type of MRI scanner. In addition, they measured the blood glucose levels in the same individuals. When the data was analyzed, a direct relationship was found between the degree of atrophy or shrinkage of the hippocampus and blood sugar measurements. Even subtle elevations of blood sugar, far below the level where one would be labeled as being diabetic, were already associated with brain shrinkage.

What’s more, the researchers also performed cognitive testing on these individuals and showed a direct relationship between failing memory and blood sugar elevation.

The take home message here is straightforward. Even mild elevations of blood sugar correlate perfectly with both brain degeneration as well as compromised function. And because your blood sugar directly reflects your sugar and carbohydrate consumption, you can choose to directly influence the size, and more importantly the preservation of function of your brain. As the authors of this report stated:

Moreover, our results indicate that lifestyle strategies aimed at long-term improvement of glucose control may be a promising strategy to prevent cognitive decline in aging.

  • Grant Parisi

    This study certainly supports what you have written in Grain Brain and it’s great that we’re seeing this kind of information coming out more often than not. I for one truly believe you got it right Dr. D

    • David Perlmutter

      That it does Grant. An important read.

  • Bobber

    Should I shun dark chocolate?

    • David Perlmutter

      You can enjoy dark chocolate that is >70% cacao.

      • Avril

        What about the sugar content in dark chocolate?

        • David Perlmutter

          If you want to avoid you can, but if you’re looking for a chocolate treat, 70%+ dark chocolate is what you should look for.

    • Kory Seder

      I get my cocoa fix in the form of unsweetened cocoa powder. I’ll blend into my coffee, or mix with full fat coconut milk (and sometimes chia).

  • Tina Thomas

    This is facinating. I just started grain brain. Can’t wait to read the whole book.

    • David Perlmutter

      Hope you will enjoy Tina, and learn along the way.

  • Di

    I am reading your book just now and I have a question. My mum has early stages of Alzheimers – could changing her diet to low carb ketogenic help to slow the progression of the disease?

    • Kory Seder

      Not to ruin the ending of the book, but yes.

  • Powerful sharing of information and knowledge here. Thank you for your continued support and education!

  • Maria

    Sugar is addicted and is the your worst enemy! It is a poison – it is dangerous…especially the white sugars, carbohydrates such as white flours..

  • Lynn Dell

    I firmly believe of first importance in the quest for optimal health as we age is to monitor blood glucose levels. And I’m not satisfied any more to wake up and have it only be slightly under 100.

  • Sharon Johnson-Glenwinkel

    Wondering if the level of blood sugar correlates with consumption amount or with the insulin resistance factors? and just how much consumption is too much? Is there a recommended maximum amount of consumption?

  • Elyse

    Where can I find this article or what’s the title? Doing a research paper and this would be very helpful.

    • David Perlmutter

      Elyse: The study is linked to in the above post. It’s near the end.

  • Shelly St Martin

    I have been monitoring pulse rate after eating carbohydrate heavy foods and sugar for the past several months. The increased pulse rate has caught my attention and prompted me to be more conscious of these physical effects. Besides all of the things I am shocked to read about in your book, does the pulse rate have some underlying deleterious effects on the cardiovascular system, which in turn could be upsetting our bodies homeostasis?

  • Rickie Tamburro

    Can we extrapolate this to children in addition to the ageing population?

  • Seems that researchers were already focused on this back in 2008: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/01/health/31memory.html?_r=2&

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  • Monica

    I do enjoy a bowl of fresh fruit in the morning – mainly berries but occasional melon or mango. Can I presume the natural fructose in fruit is okay? I do not use any other form of sweetener. Also your book encourages the consumption of fat. I have therefore reverted back to whole milk in coffee and whole Greek yogurt with my fruit. What is your view on dairy?

    • David Perlmutter

      Any dairy consumed should be full-fat. Plenty of fruits are okay, see the complete list available on my site though (berries are some of the most acceptable): http://www.drperlmutter.com/eat/list-of-gluten-free-foods/ Greek yogurt should be consumed sparingly.

      • Diane

        Please explain the Greek yogurt. I am trying to follow the Dukan Diet which is very low in carbs but does allow Greek yogurt. I am not a huge meat lover.

  • johnr

    I was wondering if there is any comparison of type 1 versus type 2 diabetics with respect to dementia rates?

    • David Perlmutter

      Great question John. Research has actually found much higher rates in type 1 (300% increased risk) vs. type 2 (200%).

      • johnr

        Could you please provide a reference for this? I have had type 1 for 30 years, am on an insulin pump, but still have trouble lowering my A1c. My ADA diet is over 3000 calories per day, mostly carb exchanges.

  • Rachel S

    I’m reading your book and trying to follow the plan. I’m also exercising regularly. I’m still struggling with sleep. I’m sure it’s a number of factors, but is it ok to take melatonin or some other sort of natural sleep aid?

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