Diabetes, Pre-diabetes and Cognitive Decline
One of the largest studies on the connection between blood sugar and brain function has found that people with prediabetes and diabetes experience worse long-term cognitive decline than people with normal blood sugar levels.
The results underscore just how dangerous impaired glucose tolerance is for overall health, from heart to brain – but a recent study offers new hope for protecting against hypoglycemia-related brain damage through the benefits of sulforaphane.
Previous studies have linked diabetes with decreased brain function, but this is the largest to find a direct relationship between A1c blood levels and risk of long-term cognitive decline.
The A1c test (referred to as the HbA1c test in this study) reflects average blood sugar for the previous two to three months. Diabetes is generally defined by an A1c level of 6.5% or above, the equivalent of 126 mg of blood sugar per deciliter. A result of between 5.7 and 6.4% is considered prediabetic, which indicates high risk for developing diabetes.
The study involved about 5,000 people in the UK, average age 66 (participants in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing), including people with normal blood sugar levels and those with levels falling in the prediabetic to diabetic range.
Cognitive function was evaluated at the beginning of the study and reassessed every two years over an eight year span to track changes in memory, executive brain function (such as decision-making speed), and overall cognitive function.
The results showed :
Those with prediabetes or diabetes had significantly decreased cognitive scores over the study period, including memory and processing speed – all signs of more rapid cognitive decline.
The results held true even after accounting for factors like smoking, alcohol consumption, cholesterol levels, depression, high blood pressure, and demographics like age, sex and marital status.
The researchers noted that all of the participants experienced some level of cognitive decline (natural result of getting older), but prediabetes and diabetes made the onset of decline come faster and the effects steeper than for people with normal blood sugar.
SFN Reduces Diabetic Cognitive Impairment
Cognitive difficulties in patients with diabetes, caused by repeated episodes of low blood sugar, can be reduced with sulforaphane supplementation, according to a new study presented at the Society for Endocrinology annual conference in Glasgow.
Long-term decline in cognitive function, with everyday learning and memory tasks becoming harder and taking longer to complete, is a common consequence for patients who frequently experience low blood sugar levels when using insulin to manage their diabetes.
Previous studies in mice have shown that reoccurring episodes of low blood sugar leads an accumulation of cell damaging free radicals in the brain.
Whether this build-up of free radical stress directly effects cognitive function, and if the body’s own antioxidative systems, which can remove free radicals, can be harnessed to counteract these changes and improve quality of life is not known.
In this study, Dr Alison McNeilly and colleagues at the University of Dundee used insulin to induce repeated bouts of low blood sugar in a mouse model of type-1 diabetes.
In the experiment, one group of mice were also dosed with the vegetable derived antioxidant sulforaphane (SFN).
Mice treated with SFN showed increased expression of antioxidant markers, decreased free radical cell damage and had significantly improved cognitive ability in memory tasks.
Dr McNeilly commented:
“Low blood sugar is an almost unavoidable consequence of insulin therapy. This work demonstrates that by improving the body’s own antioxidant defense system, we can reverse some of the side effects associated with diabetes, such as poor cognitive function.”
Dr McNeilly and her colleagues now intend to find out if boosting the body’s antioxidative system can minimize cognitive decline associated with low blood sugar in humans, by using drugs based on the chemical structure of SFN.
Dr McNeilly said,
“The concentration of SFN used in this study would not be attainable in a normal diet rich in vegetables. However, there are numerous highly potent compounds in clinical trials which may prevent cognitive impairments caused by free radicals to help diabetes patients.”
What is Sulforaphane (SFN)?
Sulforaphane is part of a group of plant-based disease-fighting phytochemicals called isothiocyanates. It’s obtained from cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cabbages.
In the body, sulforaphane stimulates the production of important enzymes that neutralize free radicals. Since inflammation and free radicals get the blame for many types of cancer, this is a big deal.
Isothiocyanates also seem to block certain cancer-activating enzymes in the body, creating a double protection.
Every cell in your body contains a powerful protein called Nrf2. The little guy is usually sleeping, but when stress, inflammation, or another signal hits your body, Nrf2 wakes up and gets to work.
Nrf2 binds to something called the antioxidant response element (ARE), the master switch that controls antioxidant production.
When ARE turns on, your cells start pumping out antioxidants and detox compounds like glutathione, quieting inflammation and protecting you against stress and damage.
The key to starting this whole process is waking up Nrf2. That’s where sulforaphane comes in.
Sulforaphane is a potent Nrf2 activator, freeing the Nrf2 protein to turn on your antioxidant production.
This pathway affects your whole body, which could explain why sulforaphane does so many different things for you:
Sulforaphane/Nrf2 activation helps your mitochondria make more ATP (the energy that fuels your whole body).
Your mitochondria can handle stress better, too, which means more energy and faster recovery for you.
Sulforaphane makes your cells create detoxification enzymes that clear carcinogens and other toxins.
One study found that sulforaphane increases excretion of airborne pollutants by 61%.
Reduces Symptoms of Autism
A double-blind, placebo-controlled study of men with autism found that:
Supplementing with sulforaphane dramatically reduced symptoms, including lethargy, irritability, stereotypy, and hyperactivity.
Patients took the supplement equivalent of a several of servings of broccoli a day.
Research shows that sulforaphane leads to more energy consumption and fat burning, while also helping to balance the amount of good bacteria in the gut.
These work together to promote healthy weight, even in the presence of high fat diet.
Researchers of Kanazawa University in collaboration with the researchers of Kagome Co., Ltd. compared the body weight of mice fed with high-fat food supplemented with sulforaphane and others with high-fat food but without sulforaphane.
The study found that the mice fed with sulforaphane exhibited weight gain rate 15 percent lower than the mice fed without sulforaphane, 20 percent visceral fat reduction, and reduction of augmentation of their hepatic steatosis and blood glucose level.
The research concluded that:
Sulforaphane reduces obesity and insulin resistance, and may be effective in preventing obesity and related metabolic disorders such as NAFLD (non alcoholic fatty liver disease) and type 2 diabetes.
Kills Cancer Cells
Sulforaphane destroys cancer cells while simultaneously strengthening healthy mitochondria.
It also detoxes carcinogens and kills cancer cells in Petri dishes, and prevents tumor growth in rats.
Recent studies have found that sulforaphane helps reverse cancer in humans, too.
Test results are so promising that drug companies are currently testing Sulforadex, a synthetic analog of sulforaphane, as a cancer treatment.
Sulforaphane for Cancer References
Where to Find Sulforaphane
Sulforaphane is a fairly new supplement, and can be difficult to find. Check your local drugstore or pharmacy, or you can purchase it at Amazon.
Carlyle Sulforaphane is a popular choice, and has excellent reviews. Each quick-release capsule contains 400 mcg of organic sulforaphane powder (from broccoli sprouts).
Carlyle supplements are bottled and lab tested in the USA, and manufactured in a GMP certified (Good Manufacturing Practices) and FDA registered facility.
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