Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Blood sugar, "normal" memory decline, and exercise

Last year we wrote about the benefits of physical exercise for brain function in the elderly, and how these benefits substantially outweigh those of any known "brain fitness" products. Now comes a study arguing that exercise as a means of helping memory may also apply much earlier in life.

In the New York Times is a report by Roni Caryn Rabin on an article in the December issue of Annals of Neurology. The researchers, led by Columbia neurology professor Scott Small, found that even moderate elevations in blood sugar led to decreases in blood flow in a part of the hippocampus, which is involved in memory formation. Because decreased blood flow is potentially fatal to neurons, the researchers speculate that "normal" declines in memory function may come from uncontrolled fluctuations in blood sugar. The prescription? Exercise, which helps in the control of blood sugar. Considering the rise in diabetes in the US, this is important advice for many people.

This study is quite sobering. I'm off to the exercycle!

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