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High sugar blood levels linked to poor memory

An inability to quickly bring down high levels of sugar in the blood is associated with poor memory and may help explain some of the memory loss that occurs as we age, according to a new study by NYU School of Medicine researchers. The study raises the possibility that exercise and weight loss, which help control blood sugar levels, may be able to reverse some of the memory loss that accompanies aging.

The study, published the first week of February in the online edition of the Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences, is the first to show an association between the size of the hippocampus, a key brain structure for learning and memory, and the ability to control blood sugar levels in the body, according to the researchers.

The study assessed non-diabetic middle-aged and elderly people, some of whom had an impaired ability to use sugar (glucose) effectively. Those with impaired glucose tolerance (a pre-diabetic condition characterized by higher than normal blood sugar levels) had a smaller hippocampus and scored worse on tests for recent memory.

"We have demonstrated that impaired glucose regulation is associated with memory dysfunction and shrinkage of the hippocampus," says Antonio Convit, M.D., Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Medical Director for the Center for Brain Health at the School of Medicine, who led the study. "Our study suggests that this impairment may contribute to the memory deficits that occur as people age, and it raises the intriguing possibility that improving glucose tolerance could reverse some age-associated problems in cognition.

The brain uses glucose almost exclusively as a fuel source. It was once generally believed that brain occupied a privileged position it could get all of the glucose it needed regardless of what was happening in the rest of the body. However, in recent years this view has been changing as knowledge about brain metabolism grows. It is now known that the a
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Contact: Pamela McDonnell
Pamela.McDonnell@med.nyu.edu
212-404-3555
New York University Medical Center and School of Medicine
3-Feb-2003


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