Ten-year study links cognitive decline to high blood sugar levels
This is the first study to link blood sugar levels, even among prediabetics, with cognitive decline.
We know a high blood sugar level is not healthy, putting you at risk for type 2 diabetes. In America, this disease should be considered an epidemic, though oddly we seem to put more effort into maintenance than prevention. Currently, 29.1 million Americans suffer from this condition, while it is believed that another 8.1 million are undiagnosed.
This long-term metabolic disorder has numerous complications, some of which lead to death. Even more startlingly, prediabetes, in which blood sugar levels are higher than normal, affects 86 million Americans. There is simply no way to live a healthy, long life under such conditions.
A new study, published in the journal Diabetologia, reveals even more bad news: even for those who do not suffer from type 2 diabetes—the 86 million prediabetics—high blood sugar level has been linked with cognitive decline. While the connection between sugar and Alzheimer’s disease is already understood, this new long-term study, conducted over the course of a decade, focuses on high blood sugar and general memory decline, covering the range of diseases of dementia.
The research team, led by Wuxiang Xie from the Peking University Health Science Center, followed 5,189 people over a ten-year period. They used HbA1c, a blood glucose test that tracks levels over a period of months, which is much more effective for understanding blood sugar levels than the standard finger-prick test. Over this entire decade, the researchers continually tested the cognitive abilities of the volunteers, whose average age was 66.
While there was no connection between blood sugar levels and cognitive decline at the outset of the study, the researchers noticed an important correlation: as HbA1c levels increased, memory and executive function decreased. While correlation is not necessarily causation, the researchers felt comfortable making the following assessment:
“The observed linear correlation of HbA1c levels with global cognitive decline was primarily driven by impairments in the domains of memory and executive function, which were assessed by immediate and delayed word recall tests and a verbal fluency task, respectively. This may suggest that cognitive decline related to high circulating glucose levels could be specific to dysfunction of certain brain regions or subcortical pathways involved in memory and executive function.”
For the reader of such a study, whether diabetic or prediabetic, the biggest practical challenge is implementing better habits before decline sets in. As Xie commented, “Dementia is one of the most prevalent psychiatric conditions strongly associated with poor quality of later life. Currently, dementia is not curable, which makes it very important to study risk factors.”
The greatest risk factor appears to be the consumption of too many carbohydrates. A 2012 study discovered that when measuring four groups, each of which ingested varying levels of carbs, the one that consumed the most experienced an 80 percent higher chance of mild cognitive impairment over the group eating the lowest amount.
Singer Paula Abdul (C), Coca-Cola North American President Don Knass (R) and Coca-Cola North American chief marketing officer Javier Benito promote Coke in Los Angeles. (Photo: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)
Though the exact mechanisms for this are not known, there are simply too many instances of correlation between the consumption of carbohydrates and high blood sugar levels with serious health problems to pretend that’s not a driver of metabolic diseases. Obesity continues to ravage our nation (and the world), while increased instances of dementia ensure the continued skyrocketing of future health care costs.
More important than economic and social data is the quality of life. Suffering from degrading physical and cognitive abilities is not how you want to spend your golden years. And it’s not necessary. There are centenarian yoga instructors and marathon runners. Knowing simple dietary choices implemented now can increase your chances of a healthy aging process should not require debate. The costs are not worth the immediate, and fleeting, reward.
Derek Beres is the author of Whole Motion and creator of Clarity: Anxiety Reduction for Optimal Health. Based in Los Angeles, he is working on a new book about spiritual consumerism. Stay in touch on Facebook and Twitter.
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Whether or not women think beards are sexy has to do with "moral disgust"
- A new study found that women perceive men with facial hair to be more attractive as well as physically and socially dominant.
- Women tend to associate more masculine faces with physical strength, social assertiveness, and formidability.
- Women who display higher levels of "moral disgust," or feelings of repugnance toward taboo behaviors, are more likely to prefer hairy faces.
Beards and perceptions of masculinity<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjU5OTg0MC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NzkxMjM3N30.cH-GqNwP5GVqvstgJWAhBPn1B_lYpVEAI0I7iax7EQw/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C1900%2C0%2C849&height=700" id="caae6" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="cb0a355a4e8e1899789bc45f3f7aef56" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Photo Credit: Wikimedia<p>The study used 919 American (mostly white) women ages 18-70 who rated 30 pictures of men they were shown with various stages of facial hair growth. The photographs depicted men with faces that had been digitally altered to look more feminine or more masculine, with a beard and without a beard. The women rated the men according to perceived attractiveness for long-term and short-term relationships. The study found that the more facial hair the men had, the higher the men were rated on their attractiveness, particularly for their suitability for a long-term relationship.</p><p>Part of this might be attributed to facial masculinity — i.e. protruding brow ridge, wide cheekbones, thick jawline, and deeply set narrow eyes — which conveys information to a woman about a man's underlying health and formidability. Women tend to associate more masculine faces with physical strength and social assertiveness. It can also indicate a man with a superior immune response. The researchers suggested that their findings favoring bearded men could be due to the fact that facial hair enhances the masculine facial features on a man's face, like creating the illusion of a thicker jaw line. This could communicate direct benefits to women like resources and protection that would enhance survival among mothers and their infants. In other words, while a beard doesn't mean superior genetics in and of itself, it might be a primitive, ornamental way of saying, "Hey girl, I'm a testosterone-fueled lean, mean, pathogen fighting machine." <br></p><p>It could also be that a beard becomes its own destiny. The researchers in this study cite prior research that found that by growing a beard, men felt more masculine and had higher levels of serum testosterone, which was linked to a higher level of social dominance. They also tended to subscribe to more old-school beliefs about gender roles in their relationships with women as compared to men with clean-shaven faces.<span></span><br></p>
What does disgust have to do with beard preference?<p>Obviously, not all women dig beards. The researchers were particularly interested in what traits make a women prefer bearded men over clean-shaven faces. They looked into several factors including a woman's disgust levels on various concepts, her desire to become pregnant, and her exposure to facial hair in her personal life. </p><p>According to the study, women who were not into facial hair were turned-off by potential parasites or other critters they imagined could be in the hair or skin. Women ranking high on this "ectoparasite disgust" scale might have viewed beards as a sign of poor grooming habits. However, women who ranked higher in levels of "pathogen" did find the bearded men to be desirable, possibly because they perceived beards as a signal of good health and immune function. An intriguing discovery in the study was links to morality. Women who displayed higher levels of "moral disgust," or feelings of repugnance toward taboo behaviors, were more likely to prefer hairy faces. The authors opined that this could reflect a link between beardedness, politically conservative outlooks, and traditional views regarding performances of masculinity in heterosexual relationships.</p>
Additional findings<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjU5OTg1My9vcmlnaW4uZ2lmIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNDI1NjUyOX0.P9B8WbmJR0q4nfzYZKbuNSA-2SAigVWJgrQE-_Gxlds/img.gif?width=980" id="49143" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2ed3b1d6f20fc170bf2974646e565e8d" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />Giphy<p>The correlations that existed between married and single women's rating on the attractiveness of beards were not particularly clear, although the researchers noted that single and married women who wanted children tended to find beards more attractive than the women who didn't want children. They also found that women with bearded husbands found beards to be more attractive, which might indicate that social exposure to beards influences how desirable they are perceived of as being. Or it could be that men with wives who like beards grow beards.</p><p>It's important to note that culture plays a huge role in how attractive women perceive certain male characteristics as being. This study looked at a small, culturally specific group of American women, so no big, universal claims should be made about masculinity, facial hair, and male desirability to women. However, research like this is important in highlighting how human grooming decisions are driven by much more than fashion trends. Sociobiological, economic, and ecological factors all play a part in the way we choose to present ourselves.</p>
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