Saturday, January 11, 2014

High Blood Sugar a Risk for Dementia? Yes. Oxidative Stress Ripping Us Apart From the Inside.

I thought this was an insightful little summary (below) of a New England Journal of Medicine study. It followed a large number of patients which give the results more "weight" than if the study had followed fewer individuals. They followed blood sugar levels at the moment taken and also glycated hemoglobin (HgA1c) which is a measure of how "sugary" your blood has been over the past month or more at least. The number of patients studied were about half men and half women.
-None had actual diabetes (because we already know diabetes has so many unfortunate outcomes if untreated). This study was meant to follow patients who sugars are trending high, but not high enough to have an actual disease name attached to it.
-None had dementia or Mild Cognitive Impairment  (MCI--a dementia precursor sometimes) at the start of the study.
-Average patient starting age: 76
-They were all followed for about 7 years.

What they essentially found was that IF YOUR SUGAR TRENDED HIGH, YOU HAD A 54% HIGHER CHANCE OF DEVELOPING DEMENTIA than the other person your age over that course of time who had a lower blood sugar trend.

To be honest, this really isn't news in general. To the medical community, we have known for decades, and every decade brings hundreds more articles that support the truth in subtle and profound ways, that too much sugar in our blood causes oxidative stress and premature aging (damage we just can't repair) of cells throughout the entire body.

When I mention "glucose (sugar)-related oxidative stress," almost all my patients give me a blank look. That's okay. It's actually very straightforward at its core: 
We need oxygen to help literally burn energy, in this case, sugar. When we use oxygen however, we make something called free radicals, which is a fancy name for atoms of molecules that are kind of unstable because an electron orbiting around it has been ripped off in the metabolic fire... and the atom doesn't like that instability, so it will literally rip an electron from anything around it to get one back and be stable again. Unfortunately, when this happens in the human body, our biological cell's inner workings take the damage which can just lead to inefficiencies in their function or can throw enough of a kink in the cell's machinations that the cell dies off.And yes, we have been designed with defenses against this, each of our trillions of trillions of cells producing enzymes to take this hit for us, and antioxidant substance we are all aware of such as Vitamin E are happy to donate electrons as well. The problem is when sugar is in greater abundance than we can handle. WE are aware, but our body ISN'T AWARE of itself in the same way. It doesn't know to stop burning up sugar for fuel because there is too much. So it keeps on burning that sugar, putting it forms that can be stored against a future lack of food or perhaps a long stretch of exertion... and making free radicals in the process that it assumes are going to be handled by other enzymes somewhere down the line. 

To me, it's something I'll be thinking about as I eat that extra jumbo-cookie I don't need; picturing it breaking down, and then it's free-radical oxygen byproducts literally ripping at the fabric of nerve cells in my brain, and the fragile little blood vessels that supply them.