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Elevated blood sugar levels tied to memory problems

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By Reuters
Sunday, Oct. 27, 2013, 5:33 p.m.

NEW YORK — Blood sugar considered safely below diabetes or pre-diabetes levels may be linked to a raised risk of memory problems, a study suggests.

German researchers found that people with elevated — but not unhealthy — blood sugar levels tended to perform worse on memory tests than those with lower levels. An area of the brain most responsible for memory differed between the two groups.

Previous studies had found links between blood sugar disorders — such as diabetes and a pre-diabetic condition known as impaired glucose intolerance — and poor brain function and dementia, lead author Dr. Agnes Flöel said.

“We were also interested if this extends to people who are still in the normal range,” Flöel, a neurologist at Charité University Medicine in Berlin, said.

Blood sugar levels are a measurement of the amount of glucose in a person's blood. The body regulates blood sugar levels by releasing insulin, which helps turn glucose into energy.

The bodies of people with diabetes have difficulty regulating blood sugar. In that case, those people usually take medicine to keep blood sugar levels within a safe range.

A person's fasting blood sugar level, which is taken after about 10 to 12 hours without food, should fall between 70 and 100 milligrams per deciliter.

For the study, Flöel and her colleagues recruited 141 people from Berlin.

The participants were between 50 and 80 years old. None of them had diabetes or memory problems. The researchers excluded heavy drinkers and obese people.

Each participant had blood taken after at least 10 hours without food and had an MRI image taken of their brain.

All of them took a memory test, in which they were told 15 unrelated words that they had to remember and repeat after various periods of time.

Overall, people with higher blood sugar readings performed worse on the memory test, compared with those with lower blood sugar levels.

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