October 4th, 2011 at 3:39 pm
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Can aggressive blood sugar control prevent dementia?

by Carol Bursack

A recent study–published in the September 27 issue of The Lancet–has stirred exceptional interest. According to the study, pursuing an intensive treatment plan to reduce blood glucose in older diabetics does not reduce memory loss in those patients, although it does preserve brain volume.

The published result of this study comes on the heels of a different study from Japan that discovered having diabetes doubles the risk of a person developing Alzheimer’s disease. Yet another recently publicized study reported the findings that intra-nasal insulin, used by many for type 2 diabetes, could one day prove to be a preventative or cure for Alzheimer’s.

Diabetes and dementia: is blood sugar control worth it?

With all of this news centered around diabetes and dementia, it’s only natural for people to wonder if a managing blood glucose levels with extra vigor, keeping them even lower than the generally accepted standard for managed diabetes, could prevent diabetes-related Alzheimer’s.

According to Dr. Jeff D. Williamson, chief of geriatrics and gerontology at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and co-author of the study published in The Lancet, the answer is “no.” Williamson said in a written statement:

“Does the added cost and effort to control blood sugar result in a slowed rate of memory loss? After conducting this study, there remains no evidence that it does.”

According to the study, researchers had:

“… recruited 3,000 diabetics between the ages of 55 and 80, and assigned them to either an ‘intensive’ program aimed at lowering their glucose (A1c) levels below 6 percent or a ’standard’ program that attempted to keep glucose levels between 7 and 7.9 percent.”

Alzheimer’s and diabetes: drawbacks to intensive glucose control strategy?

According to msnbc.com, the study found that individuals using the intensive blood glucose program did retain significantly more brain volume. However, Williamson did not recommend the intensive glucose control strategy because it carries increased risks of heart issues and even death.

If anything can immediately be concluded by all of this information, it is that diabetes and dementia, particularly of the Alzheimer’s type, are a target of much research. None of the studies gives people with diabetes life changing information–yet. However, the news of these studies should put them on alert.

More information should soon follow.

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