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Study: High blood sugar, even if normal, can impact brain health

September 6, 2012

Diabetes is widely considered to raise the risk of suffering brain shrinkage later in life, and results of a recent study suggest older adults do not even have to be diagnosed with the disease to feel the effects. Researchers say even having blood sugar levels on the higher side of normal can impact cognitive function.

The study looked at the blood sugar levels of nearly 250 adults between 60 and 64. All the subjects were considered normal under guidelines set by the World Health Organization. Researchers found the participants who were on the higher end of normal were more likely to have shrinkage in areas of the brain associated with memory and cognitive ability.

"These findings suggest that even for people who do not have diabetes, blood sugar levels could have an impact on brain health," said study author Nicolas Cherbuin. "More research is needed, but these findings may lead us to re-evaluate the concept of normal blood sugar levels and the definition of diabetes."

Perhaps most importantly, the findings highlight the fact that proper nutrition is an important part of a healthy lifestyle for seniors. There are many foods associated with a lower diabetes risk, most of which can easily be incorporated into one's diet.

Nuts offer numerous health benefits, and lowering the risk of diabetes is among them. According to U.S. News and World Report, nuts contain many helpful nutrients such as magnesium, healthy fats and fiber, all of which can help prevent diabetes.

In addition to eating nuts, older adults can also add fish, leafy green vegetables and fat-free dairy products to their diet, all of which have diabetes-fighting nutrients including omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D.