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Increased dementia risk for diabetics

OLDER diabetics whose blood sugar drops to dangerously low levels have a higher risk of developing dementia, United States researchers said yesterday.

The study by researchers at Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, California, suggests that aggressive blood sugar control resulting in blood sugar so low that it requires a trip to the hospital may increase dementia risks in older adults with type 2 diabetes.

"We know that having blood sugar that is too high is not good," Rachel Whitmer, a Kaiser research scientist whose study appears in the Journal of the American Medical Association, said in a telephone interview.

"You want to keep that blood sugar at a good level, but you don't want to go too low," she said.

Several studies have found that diabetics have a higher risk of developing Alzheimer's disease - the most common form of dementia - than do the general population. Others have shown that diabetics who take insulin and pills to help control their disease have a lower Alzheimer's risk.

"The very current issue here is balance of blood sugar control," Whitmer said.

She said a missed meal can cause severe low blood sugar in diabetics, but the chief cause is too much insulin, which can happen in people who take insulin injections or with oral diabetes drugs.

She and colleagues looked at more than two decades of data in more than 16,600 patients with type 2 diabetes.

They found that compared with people who had no severe bouts of low blood sugar, diabetics with single or multiple episodes had higher dementia risks, and risks rose depending on the number of episodes.


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