Tag Archives: dementia

Preserve Your Hippocampus With Exercise

MRI scan of brain

MRI scan of brain

The NYT’s Well blog has the details. The brain’s hippocampus is a critical center for memory. Alzheimers disease is associated with a gene called apo-E4. Carriers of that gene who exercise regularly have less shrinkage of the hippocampus than non-exercisers.

To PROVE that regular exercise prevents dementia-related shrinkage of the hippocampus, you’d have to force some folks to exercise and stop others who wanted to exercise. A couple years later, scan their brains and compare the two groups. That study may never be done.

The Mediterranean diet also seems to prevent or forestall dementia.

Steve Parker, M.D.

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Does Diabetes Drug Pioglitazone Prevent Dementia?

Nobody knows. A recent report out of Germany suggests that pioglitazone does prevent dementia, but it’s not a very strong linkage. If it works, I wonder if it’s simply related to better control of blood sugar, which could be accomplished with a variety of means. Pioglitazone (aka Actos) is a type 2 diabetes drug in the TZD class. You could call it an “insulin sensitizer.”

The best popular press report I’ve seen is at Bloomberg.

German researchers went fishing for associations in a huge database of patients and drug usage. Their formal report hasn’t even been published yet. A five-year study was recently initiated to further investigate the possibility that piogoitazone prevents dementia. I doubt this will pan out.

Steve Parker, M.D.

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Another Study Finds the Mediterranean Diet Preserves Brain Function During Aging

Well, maybe that’s a bit of an overstatement. Preserved brain function and the Mediterranean diet were  positively associated in a study involving Americans in Utah. This fits with prior observations that the Mediterranean diet prevents dementia.

In the study at hand, the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) also protected the brain:

Higher levels of compliance with both the DASH and Mediterranean dietary patterns were associated with consistently higher levels of cognitive function in elderly men and women over an 11-y period. Whole grains and nuts and legumes were positively associated with higher cognitive functions and may be core neuroprotective foods common to various healthy plant-centered diets around the globe.

See the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition for details.

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Filed under Dementia, Health Benefits, Mediterranean Diet

High Blood Sugar Raises Risk for Dementia, Even For Non-Diabetics

dementia, memory loss, Mediterranean diet, low-carb diet, glycemic index, dementia memory loss

“Let’s work on getting those blood sugars down, honey.”

On the heels of a report finding no association between Alzheimer’s disease and abnormal blood sugar metabolism, MedPageToday features an new study linking high blood sugars to future development of dementia. And diabetics with sugar levels higher than other diabetics were more prone to develop dementia.

Some of you have already noted that not all cases of dementia are Alzheimer’s dementia. But Alzheimer’s accounts for a solid majority of dementia cases, about eight in 10 cases.

Some quotes from MedPageToday:

During a median follow-up of 6.8 years, 524 participants [of the 2,000 total] developed dementia, consisting of 74 with diabetes and 450 without. Patients without diabetes and who developed dementia had significantly higher average glucose levels in the 5 years before diagnosis of dementia (P=0.01). The difference translated into a hazard ratio of 1.18 (95% CI 1.04-1.33).

Among the patients with diabetes, glucose levels averaged 190 mg/dL in those who developed dementia versus 160 mg/dL in those who did not. The difference represented a 40% increase in the hazard for dementia (HR 1.40, 95% CI 1.12-1.76).

Steve Parker, M.D.

Reference: Crane PK et al. “Glucose Levels and Risk of Dementia” N Engl J Med 2013; 369: 540-548.

Reminder: Conquer Diabetes and Prediabetes is now available on Kindle.

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Filed under Dementia, Diabetes Complications

Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplements Fail to Prevent Dementia

I like fish, but raw whole dead fish leave me cold

Supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids does not help prevent age-related cognitive decline and dementia, according to an article at MedPage Today.

The respected Cochrane organization did a meta-analysis of three pertinent studies done in several countries (Holland, UK, and ?).

The investigators leave open the possibility that longer-term studies—over three years—may show some benefit.

I leave you with a quote from the MedPage Today article:

And while cognitive benefits were not demonstrated in this review, Sydenham and colleagues emphasized that consumption of two servings of fish each week, with one being an oily fish such as salmon or sardines, is widely recommended for overall health benefits.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Reference:
Sydenham E, et al “Omega 3 fatty acid for the prevention of cognitive decline and dementia” Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2012; DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD005379.pub3.

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Filed under Dementia, Uncategorized

Another Research Report Links Type 2 Diabetes With Dementia

Compared with non-diabetics in the study, T2s had brain atrophy  (shrinkage on MRI scans) and cognitive deficits reminiscent of pre-clinical Alzheimer’s disease.

Click for details at Diabetes Care.

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Deteriorating Brain Function Linked to High Insulin Levels and Insulin Resistance: Here’s How You Fight Back

dementia, memory loss, Mediterranean diet, low-carb diet, glycemic index, dementia memory loss

Don’t wait to take action until it’s too late

Insulin resistance and high blood insulin levels promote age-related degeneration of the brain, leading to memory loss and dementia according to Robert Krikorian, Ph.D.  He’s a professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience, University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center.  He has an article in a recent issue of Current Psychiatry – Online.

Proper insulin signaling in the brain is important for healthy functioning of our brains’ memory centers.  This signaling breaks down in the setting of insulin resistance and the associated high insulin levels.  Dr. K makes much of the fact that high insulin levels and insulin resistance are closely tied to obesity.  He writes that:

“Waist circumference of ≥100 cm (39 inches) is a sensitive, specific, and independent predictor of hyperinsulinemia for men and women and a stronger predictor than body mass index, waist-to-hip ratio, and other measures of body fat.”

Take-Home Points

Dr. Krikorian thinks that dietary approaches to the prevention of dementia are effective yet underutilized.  He mentions reduction of insulin levels by restricting calories or a ketogenic diet: they’ve been linked with improved memory in middle-aged and older adults.

Dr. Krikorian suggests the following measures to prevent dementia and memory loss:

  • eliminate high-glycemic foods like processed carbohydrates and sweets
  • replace high-glycemic foods with fruits and vegetables (the higher polyphenol intake may help by itself)
  • certain polyphenols, such as those found in berries, may be particularly helpful in improving brain metabolic function
  • keep your waist size under 39 inches, or aim for that if you’re overweight

I must mention that many, perhaps most, dementia experts are not as confident  as Dr. Krikorian that these dietary changes are effective.  I think they probably are, to a degree.

The Mediterranean diet is high in fruits and vegetables and relatively low-glycemic.  It’s usually mentioned by experts as the diet that may prevent dementia and slow its progression.

Read the full article.

I’ve written before about how blood sugars in the upper normal range are linked to brain degeneration.  Dr. Krikorian’s recommendations would tend to keep blood sugar levels in the lower end of the normal range.

Steve Parker, M.D.

PS: Speaking of dementia and ketogenic, have you ever heard of the Ketogenic Mediterranean Diet?  (Free condensed version here.)

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Filed under Carbohydrate, Dementia, Glycemic Index and Load, ketogenic diet