Impaired glucose tolerance linked to cognitive dysfunction

People who have impaired glucose tolerance – a precursor to type 2 diabetes – are more likely to show cognitive dysfunction, according to research presented at the 2013 Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) Annual Meeting & Expo.

Yet lifestyle changes, including losing weight and increasing exercise, might help to reverse impaired glucose tolerance – and therefore the progression of cognitive dysfunction. If the condition is not managed, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and other health complications can easily ensue.

Cognitive test outcomes poor in women with impaired glucose tolerance

Researcher Louise Dye, professor of nutrition and behavior in the Human Appetite Research Unit at the Institute of Psychological Sciences at the University of Leeds, presented research from 31 previous studies on diet and cognitive performance. She found that impaired glucose tolerance was linked to poor performance in 12 of 27 cognitive tests, including visual verbal learning test, word recognition, visual spatial learning test and psychomotor test.

The test subjects were middle-aged women in good health who had glucose tolerance problems.

"There was significant impairment in those women who were impaired glucose tolerant," Dye said. "To me, that feels like a ticking time bomb. We need to use food – the diet and food industry – to help us shift these people back from impaired glucose tolerance. By the time they get to type 2 diabetes, the impairments are much more evident."

A reversible problem

Dye referenced one Japanese study conducted in 2009 where a group of 129 people in their 80s used diet and exercise during a two-year period to improve health outcomes. At the end of the study, the 36 participants who had impaired glucose intolerance showed improvements in cognitive tests.

"That tells us something about how improving glucose regulation through dietary fiber and exercise could improve cognitive functions," Dye said.

Another panelist at the expo, Nicholas Bordenave, PhD, associate principal scientist in the analytical department of PepsiCo Global R&D, said foods that promote satiety – those that are high-fiber and low on the glycemic index scale – are important to eat. The challenge, he noted, is for food manufacturers to create these types of foods in a way that will be appealing to consumers.

"From the consumer standpoint there is still a lot to understand," Bordenave said. "Right now, people think in terms of satiety. They are not aware yet of the effect of glucose delivery on their mental performance. It's really about consumer education."

Source: Institute of Food Technologists (IFT)

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