Study Links Diets High in Sugar, Carbs to Cognitive Problems


October 30, 2017

New research is adding more support to the idea that a high-glycemic diet can lead to a greater risk for cognitive problems.

The study, reported last week in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, involved researchers from The University of Kansas Alzheimer's Disease Center.

The team used screening data from the center's Prevention through Exercise (APEX) program to track 128 adults. Those who consumed more sugar and carbohydrates had an elevated cerebral amyloid burden, an Alzheimer's disease risk factor.

When the researchers focused solely on sugar intake, they found it associated with poor cognitive performance.

"This is matching up with what we know about blood sugar," says Randy Evans, an integrative dietitian at The University of Kansas Health System. "It's not unusual for people with blood sugar problems to also have cognitive issues."

Evans says sugar and carbs bind to everything in the body. When they stick to proteins, a process known as glycation, it can affect how tissues and organs work. When these proteins build up in the brain, it can form plaques and tangles and increase the risk of Alzheimer's disease.

The medical community has recently focused on this connection, referring to cognitive issues linked to blood sugar as "Type-3 diabetes." Evans says this designation might make it easier for the general public to understand the link.

The researchers concluded that diet is something an individual can change to reduce amyloid accumulation in the brain – and help prevent loss of cognitive functions.

Evans says when people switch to diets where they consume fewer carbs, such as the high-fat, low-carb ketogenic diet, they often report thinking more clearly.

The University of Kansas Health System integrative medicine team can help guide you toward a healthy lifestyle. Call 913-588-6208 to make an appointment.

We hope you’ll follow us on Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube and Twitter.

Explore more news, events and media