News in Brief: High blood glucose levels linked to dementia

Thursday, August 8th 2013. | Science News

Elderly people with elevated readings more likely to develop condition

By Nathan Seppa

Web edition: August 7, 2013

High blood glucose levels appear to be associated with an increased risk of dementia in older people, a new study finds.

Paul Crane at the University of Washington in Seattle and his colleagues recorded blood glucose levels in 2,067 people an average of 76 years old who initially had no signs of dementia. After five years, roughly one-fourth of the participants developed some form of dementia.

Among people without diabetes, the risk of developing dementia was 18 percent greater in those with high blood glucose levels than in those with low levels. In people with diabetes, the risk of dementia was 40 percent higher in the high-glucose group, the scientists report in the Aug. 8 New England Journal of Medicine.

The researchers took into account differences in age, gender, education, heart disease, blood pressure, smoking history and exercise level. While the study doesn’t establish a biological link between high blood glucose and dementia, the researchers speculate that the association could be explained by either glucose-related damage to tiny blood vessels in the central nervous system or insulin resistance – in which cells lose the ability to efficiently process sugar.

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