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Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center Link Blood Sugar to Normal Cognitive Aging

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Maintaining blood sugar levels, even in the absence of disease, may be an important strategy for preserving cognitive health, suggests a study published by researchers at Columbia University


2008-12-31

From the news release:

Maintaining blood sugar levels, even in the absence of disease, may be an important strategy for preserving cognitive health, suggests a study published by researchers at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC). The study appeared in the December issue of Annals of Neurology.

Senior moments, also dubbed by New York Times Op-Ed columnist David Brooks as being "hippocampically challenged," are a normal part of aging. Such lapses in memory, according to this new research, could be blamed, at least in part, on rising blood glucose levels as we age. The findings suggest that exercising to improve blood sugar levels could be a way for some people to stave off the normal cognitive decline that comes with age.

"This is news even for people without diabetes since blood glucose levels tend to rise as we grow older. Whether through physical exercise, diet or drugs, our research suggests that improving glucose metabolism could help some of us avert the cognitive decline that occurs in many of us as we age," reported lead investigator Scott A. Small, M.D., associate professor of neurology in the Sergievsky Center and in the Taub Institute for Research on Alzheimer’s Disease and the Aging Brain at Columbia University Medical Center.

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"Beyond the obvious conclusion that preventing late-life disease would benefit the aging hippocampus, our findings suggest that maintaining blood sugar levels, even in the absence of diabetes, could help maintain aspects of cognitive health. More specifically, our findings predict that any intervention that causes a decrease in blood glucose should increase dentate gyrus function and would therefore be cognitively beneficial," said Dr. Small.

The new findings also suggest that one way in which physical exercise could improve memory is via lowering glucose levels. Dr. Small's previous imaging studies in humans and in mice have documented that among all hippocampal subregions, physical exercise causes an improvement in dentate gyrus function.

By improving glucose metabolism, physical exercise also reduces blood glucose. It is therefore possible that the cognitive enhancing effects of physical exercise are mediated, at least in part, by the beneficial effect of lower glucose on the dentate gyrus. Whether with physical exercise, diet or through the development of potential pharmacological interventions, our research suggests that improving glucose metabolism could be a clinically viable approach for improving the cognitive slide that occurs in many of us as we age," concluded Dr. Small.

Read the rest of the news release at the link


2008-12-31

http://www.cumc.columbia.edu/news/press_releases/081230_Aging.html

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