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Diabetes Dementia Connection

November 16, 2011 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

A recent article appearing in the Los Angeles Times draws attention to an emerging health crisis that is currently underreported. “Looking at the Link Between Diabetes and Dementia” focuses on the growing consensus among researchers that elevated blood sugar likely plays a pivotal role in the development of dementia. One of the more shocking statistics mentioned is that an estimated 10% of all dementia cases may be attributable to diabetes. But, hope can be found in the words of Dr. Debra Cherry, one of the specialists featured in the piece – “What is good for the reduction of diabetes risk is also good for reduction of the risk of cognitive impairment”.

The foundation for reducing diabetes risk is a diet that emphasizes nutrient-dense, whole foods and restricts high-glycemic carbohydrates. Add regular exercise, stress management and adequate sleep to the mix and the odds of developing type 2 diabetes drop even further. However, there are also numerous alternative practices that ought to be considered as needed. Massage is a good example. A recent trial determined that receiving 15 minutes of Swedish massage three times a week can lower blood sugar in diabetic children. What’s more, a new study involving adult diabetics found that combining exercise and massage effectively lowers blood pressure and supports healthier circulation to the feet and legs. On the supplement front, silymarin, a flavonoid found in milk thistle, is showing promise in the effort to reduce insulin resistance – a key characteristic of diabetes. In fact, not only can silymarin reduce blood sugar, but it may also shield the kidneys and liver from diabetic related damage. There’s even some preliminary evidence suggesting that milk thistle limits the formation of brain plaque (amyloid B-protein) in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease. Two additional supplements worth noting are DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid found in algae and fish, and Vitamin D3. Daily consumption of 3 grams of DHA discourages blood sugar induced lipid changes such as high triglycerides and low HDL (“bad”) cholesterol. The combination of high triglycerides and low HDL is a hallmark of metabolic syndrome and may predispose one to cardiovascular disease and dementia. The importance of Vitamin D is evident in a current review which reveals that those deficient in D have a 60% higher “relative risk of cognitive decline”. Vitamin D may impart this protection by promoting greater insulin sensitivity.

Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!

To learn more about the studies referenced in today’s column, please click on the following links:

Study 1 – Looking at the Link Between Diabetes and Dementia (link)

Study 2 – How Effective is Swedish Massage on Blood Glucose Level in (link)

Study 3 – Efficacy of a Massage and Exercise Programme on the Ankle (link)

Study 4 – Effect of Silymarin in Diabetes Mellitus Patients with Liver (link)

Study 5 – The Efficacy of Silybum Marianum (L.) Gaertn. (Silymarin) (link)

Study 6 – Silymarin Attenuated the Amyloid B Plaque Burden and (link)

Study 7 – Docosahexaenoic Acid Supplementation Improved Lipocentric (link)

Study 8 – Metabolic Syndrome and Risk for Incident Alzheimer’s (link)

Study 9 – Vitamin D, Cognitive Dysfunction and Dementia in Older Adults (link)

Study 10 – Vitamin D3 Supplementation Improves Insulin Sensitivity (link)

Silymarin May Lower Blood Sugar and Protect the Liver

Source: J Pharmacol Pharmacother. 2011 Oct-Dec; 2(4): 287–289. (link)

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Posted in Alternative Therapies, Diabetes, Memory

7 Comments & Updates to “Diabetes Dementia Connection”

  1. Sai Says:

    Hello JP

    Thanks for a very good article. I am a type 2 diabetic (with metabolic syndrome) and recently stopped actos beacause of all those warnings and now trying to regualte via diet and exercise only. I have read about Milk thistle (especially since i have dawn syndrome – high dump of early morning blood sugar from Liver). Actually it is not very surprising that diabetes leads to Dementia since the diabetic pokes himself around 5-6 times a day and his day depends on each reading. As this goes on for an extended period of time (Progressively getting worse) i think directly and indirectly brian function is impaired. Thanks again for a very good informative post!



  2. JP Says:

    You’re most welcome, Sai! I wish you all the best in finding a natural solution for managing your blood sugar. I’ll continue posting any relevant information I can find. 🙂

    Be well!


  3. liverock Says:


    Hearing loss is also reckoned to be a marker for dementia and diabetes.



    The unholy trinity of old age,diabetes,dementia and hearingloss, all have one thing in common-high homocysteine levels.It pays to keep taking the B complex in the later years.


  4. JP Says:


    Thanks for adding that, Liverock. Here are a few links to further support your assertion:



    Be well!


  5. JP Says:

    Update: Milk thistle lowers inflammation, oxidative stress in diabetics …


    Effects of Silybum marianum (L.) Gaertn. (silymarin) extract supplementation on antioxidant status and hs-CRP in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus: A randomized, triple-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial

    Aim: Diabetes is a serious metabolic disorder and oxidative stress and inflammation contribute to its pathogenesis and complications. Since Silybum marianum (L.) Gaertn. (silymarin) extract is an antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties, this randomized clinical trial was conducted to evaluate the effects of silymarin supplementation on oxidative stress indices and hs-CRP in type 2 diabetes mellitus patients.

    Methods: For the present paralleled, randomized, triple-blinded, placebo-controlled clinical trial, 40 type 2 diabetes patients aged 25–50 yr old and on stable medication were recruited from the Iranian Diabetes Society and endocrinology clinics in East Azarbayjan (Tabriz, Iran) and randomly assigned into two groups. Patients in the silymarin treatment group received 140 mg, thrice daily of dried extracts of Silybum marianum (n = 20) and those in the placebo group (n = 20) received identical placebos for 45 days. Data pertaining to height, weight, waist circumference and BMI, as well as food consumption, were collected at base line and at the conclusion of the study. Fasting blood samples were obtained and antioxidant indices and hs-CRP were assessed at baseline, as well as at the end of the trial.

    Results: All 40 patients completed the study and did not report any adverse effects or symptoms with the silymarin supplementation. Silymarin supplementation significantly increased superoxide dismutase (SOD), glutathione peroxidase (GPX) activity and total antioxidant capacity (TAC) compared to patients taking the placebo, by 12.85%, 30.32% and 8.43%, respectively (p < 0.05). There was a significant reduction in hs-CRP levels by 26.83% (p < 0.05) in the silymarin group compared to the placebo group. Malondialdehyde (MDA) concentration significantly decreased by 12.01% (p < 0.05) in the silymarin group compared to the baseline. Conclusions: Silymarin supplementation improves some antioxidant indices (SOD, GPX and TAC) and decrease hs-CRP levels in T2DM patients. Be well! JP

  6. JP Says:


    Nutrients. 2015 May 11;7(5):3449-63.

    One Egg per Day Improves Inflammation when Compared to an Oatmeal-Based Breakfast without Increasing Other Cardiometabolic Risk Factors in Diabetic Patients.

    There is concern that egg intake may increase blood glucose in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM). However, we have previously shown that eggs reduce inflammation in patients at risk for T2DM, including obese subjects and those with metabolic syndrome. Thus, we hypothesized that egg intake would not alter plasma glucose in T2DM patients when compared to oatmeal intake. Our primary endpoints for this clinical intervention were plasma glucose and the inflammatory markers tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α and interleukin 6 (IL-6). As secondary endpoints, we evaluated additional parameters of glucose metabolism, dyslipidemias, oxidative stress and inflammation. Twenty-nine subjects, 35-65 years with glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1c) values <9% were recruited and randomly allocated to consume isocaloric breakfasts containing either one egg/day or 40 g of oatmeal with 472 mL of lactose-free milk/day for five weeks. Following a three-week washout period, subjects were assigned to the alternate breakfast. At the end of each period, we measured all primary and secondary endpoints. Subjects completed four-day dietary recalls and one exercise questionnaire for each breakfast period. There were no significant differences in plasma glucose, our primary endpoint, plasma lipids, lipoprotein size or subfraction concentrations, insulin, HbA1c, apolipoprotein B, oxidized LDL or C-reactive protein. However, after adjusting for gender, age and body mass index, aspartate amino-transferase (AST) (p < 0.05) and tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α (p < 0.01), one of our primary endpoints were significantly reduced during the egg period. These results suggest that compared to an oatmeal-based breakfast, eggs do not have any detrimental effects on lipoprotein or glucose metabolism in T2DM. In contrast, eggs reduce AST and TNF-α in this population characterized by chronic low-grade inflammation. Be well! JP

  7. JP Says:

    Update 07/10/15:


    Br J Nutr. 2015 Jun 23:1-10. [Epub ahead of print]

    Association between mild cognitive impairment and dementia and undernutrition among elderly people in Central Africa: some results from the EPIDEMCA (Epidemiology of Dementia in Central Africa) programme.

    Several studies in Western countries have shown an association between cognitive disorders and low BMI or weight loss in elderly people. However, few data are available in Africa. We analysed the association between cognitive disorders and undernutrition among elderly people in Central Africa. A cross-sectional, multicentre, population-based study using a two-phase design was carried out in subjects aged 65 years and above in the Central African Republic (CAR) and the Republic of Congo (ROC). All subjects were interviewed using the Community Screening Interview for Dementia, and those with low performance were clinically assessed by a neurologist and underwent further psychometrical tests. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual-IV and Petersen’s criteria were required for the diagnoses of dementia and mild cognitive impairment (MCI), respectively. Undernutrition was evaluated using mid-upper arm circumference (MUAC) < 24 cm, BMI < 18·5 kg/m2 and arm muscular circumference (AMC) < 5th percentile. Multivariate binary logistic regression models were used to estimate the associations. In CAR, MCI was associated with MUAC < 24 cm (OR 0·7, 95 % CI 0·4, 1·0) and dementia with BMI < 18·5 kg/m2 (OR 2·3, 95 % CI 1·6, 3·1), AMC < 5th percentile (OR 2·3, 95 % CI 1·1, 4·6) and MUAC < 24 cm (OR 1·8, 95 % CI 1·4, 2·4). In ROC, both MCI and dementia were associated with all markers of undernutrition, but only AMC < 5th percentile was significantly associated with MCI (OR 3·1, 95 % CI 1·9, 4·8). In conclusion, cognitive disorders were associated with undernutrition. However, further studies are needed to elucidate the relationship between MCI and undernutrition in CAR. Be well! JP

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