People with prediabetic conditions often experience declines in mental sharpness. But a new analysis of studies of people with such conditions shows a healthy diet and exercise can reverse those mental declines.
The findings, presented at the 2013 Institute of Food Technologists Annual Meeting and Expo this week, suggest even modest modifications in lifestyle can help people with impaired glucose tolerance — a precursor to Type 2 diabetes — head off the condition and boost their brainpower.
For the analysis, researchers at the University of Leeds examined 31 studies of individuals with glucose intolerance.
Louise Dye, a Leeds professor of nutrition and behavior who conducted the analysis, found that many people with impaired glucose tolerance who increased their exercise levels and ate a healthy, fiber-rich diet were able to improve their performance on tests of cognitive abilities.
One 2009 Japanese study of 129 people in their 80s — 55 of whom had impaired glucose tolerance or Type 2 diabetes — found those who consumed more than 30 grams of dietary fiber per day and exercised two to four times per week over a two-year period demonstrated marked improvements in memory, mental sharpness, and other measures of cognitive abilities.
"That tells us something about how improving glucose regulation through dietary fiber and exercise could improve cognitive functions," 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."
Impaired glucose tolerance is a prediabetic state of hyperglycemia that is associated with insulin resistance and a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. It can precede Type 2 diabetes by several years, and some lifestyle changes, such as getting to a normal weight and increasing exercise, can help prediabetic people avoid that progression completely.
Dye called on the food industry to continue researching the best products for consumers with glucose tolerance issues, such as those foods with increased fiber and those with limited glycemic impact.
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