Review on May 04, 2009
The importance of a well-balanced diet takes on an even greater significance in old age as nutrition deficiencies can lead to complications down the road such as stroke or heart disease. Now seniors can add another difficulty to their roster of worries: memory lapses. Naturally a certain degree of forgetfulness is considered a normal part of the aging process, but serious memory lapses can be disturbing and fall beyond the "where did I put my keys" line of questioning.
It turns out that a diet high in sugary foods can do more than rot the teeth: it can also lead to memory lapses. Researchers from Columbia University in New York have recently uncovered a link between high glucose levels in the blood and an increased incidence in memory lapses. Normally, dementia and forgetfulness are results of an imbalance in the hippocampus, a part of the brain that affects memory. However, what was interesting to the Columbia researchers is that a specific part of the brain is stimulated by too much sugar in the bloodstream: the dentate gyrus, leading to memory lapses.
Through brain scans of both humans and animals, it was noted that there was a reduction in activity in the dentate gyrus when the test subjects consumed a great deal of sugar. The scientist in charge of the study, Scott Small, examined 181 subjects over the age of 65 with no prior history of dementia, and found most responding directly to increased glucose levels.
A rise in blood sugar levels is a natural part of the aging process. This usually hits people in their 30's and 40's, when the body becomes less efficient in its metabolic activity, leading to a slower breakdown in sugar compounds. This leads to a need to more closely monitor sugar intake with age in order to possibly prevent or even reverse memory lapses.
Researchers and public alike are excited about these new findings, as it points to a new method for avoiding memory lapses. By correcting the glucose imbalance and lowering overall blood sugar levels, this is one way of reducing the incidence of what could be incorrectly defined as dementia.
- Henderson, Damien. "Keeping blood sugar levels under control can help avoid memory lapses," The Herald UK, December 2008.
- Swaminathan, Nikhil. "Avoiding Sugar Key to Ending Senior Moments," Scientific American, April 2009.