by Nils Osmar. March 22, 2022
High blood sugar is associated many problems related to aging, including our odds of succumbing to Alzheimers and other debilitating health conditions. According to Harvard Health article entitled Above-normal blood sugar linked to dementia:
There are many reasons to keep your blood sugar under control: protecting your arteries and nerves are two of them. Here’s another biggie: preventing dementia, the loss of memory and thinking skills that afflicts millions of older Americans.
A study published today in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that even in people without diabetes, above normal blood sugar is associated with an increased risk of developing dementia. This finding goes beyond previously seen links between diabetes and dementia.
“It establishes for the first time, convincingly, that there is a link between dementia and elevated blood sugars in the non-diabetic range,” says study author Dr. David Nathan, a Harvard Medical School professor and the director of the Diabetes Center and Clinical Research Center at Massachusetts General Hospital.
What the researchers found is that any incremental increase in blood sugar was associated with an increased risk of dementia—the higher the blood sugar, the higher the risk.
Many People Are Struggling
Those of us who are active in the anti-aging community tend to be aware of the dangers of high blood glucose, and may think we’re doing everything we can to keep our blood glucose low. But we can still find our A1C drifting upward.
We eat low carb diets, take meds such as metformin and supplements such as berberine, milk thistle, Ceylon cinnamon and allulose, and try to get enough exercise — yet can still struggle to control our glucose levels.
All of these interventions may have benefits. But some recent research points out that simply staying hydrated may be a key to lowering our blood glucose, which could in turn lower our risk of dementia.
Staying Hydrated Matters
Water is essential to the human body. It aids digestion, prevents constipation, normalizes blood pressure, lubricates joints, helps regulate our body temperature, and helps flush waste products out of our cells and tissues.
In looking for ways to lower blood glucose, we can, I think, learn a lot from another community: diabetics. According to article called “Water and Diabetes: Are You Drinking Enough Water?”, 60 percent of the human body is composed of water. Our muscles are 75 percent water. Our brain is 85 percent. Recent research suggests that most people are not drinking enough of it, and are in a constant state of mild dehydration – and this can have a significant effect on our blood glucose.
From the article:
Quite simply, when you don’t drink enough water, the glucose in your bloodstream becomes more concentrated. And that leads to higher blood sugar levels. Both mild and severe dehydration can have a notable impact on your diabetes.
Even a mild level of dehydration — something you may not even feel — could easily leave your blood sugar levels 50 to 100 mg/dL higher than if you were drinking enough water.
If you’re consistently dehydrated on a daily basis, you might even be compensating with higher insulin levels than you’d need if your body was getting the water it needed.
More severe levels of dehydration, on the other hand, can drive blood sugars very high very quickly. For example, repeated vomiting from food poisoning or a stomach virus can lead to very sudden high blood sugar levels. But after an IV of fluids at the emergency room, you’ll likely see your blood sugar drop quickly towards normal levels without additional insulin.
It’s the simple issue of severe dehydration causing the glucose in your bloodstream to become extremely concentrated, and then quickly diluting it with plenty of fluids.
So how much water do we need? How much is really enough, or too much? According to a Mayo Clinic article called “Water: How Much Should You Drink Eery Day?“,
The U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine determined that an adequate daily fluid intake is:
• About 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of fluids a day for men
• About 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) of fluids a day for women
• These recommendations cover fluids from water, other beverages and food.
• About 20% of daily fluid intake usually comes from food and the rest from drinks.
You’ve probably heard the advice to drink eight glasses of water a day…. For some people, fewer than eight glasses a day might be enough. But other people might need more.
Too much water, of course, can be an issue too. The article continues:
Athletes occasionally may drink too much water in an attempt to prevent dehydration during long or intense exercise. When you drink too much water, your kidneys can’t get rid of the excess water. The sodium content of your blood becomes diluted. This is called hyponatremia and it can be life-threatening.
What I’m Doing
I’ve realized in my own case that I tend to drink too little water, not too much. But trying to force myself to drink eight glasses leaves me feeling bloated and a little sick. What feels right to me these days is to drink around six glasses.
Often this is just a matter of adding more water to drinks I’m already taking. For example, I make a drink called a Fasting Mimicking Smoothie most mornings; I had been adding one or two cups of water to the other ingredients in it; I’ve upped this to two or three. I do a lot of fasting, and try to remind myself of the importance of drinking water when doing so = and also of replenishing electrolytes.
Speaking anecdotally, I find that my blood glucose does tend to be lower, and my A1C levels significantly better, when I remember to stay hydrated. (To be clear, what I’ve been doing has not been a controlled experiment. I was taking supplements at the same time.)
P.S. One mistake I made (decades ago) was trying to drink more fruit juice in an attempt to stay hydrated. Commercially marketed fruit juice does contain a lot of water, but it’s also very high in fructose, which also raises blood glucose. Sweetened fruit juices are particularly problematic. Citing one more study, Dietary fructose, fruits, fruit juices and glucose tolerance status in Japanese-Brazilians:
A total of 475 men and 579 women aged >or=30 years were evaluated in a cross-sectional population-based survey with a standardized protocol including a 2-h oral glucose tolerance test (WHO criteria). …
After adjustments for potential confounding variables, the odds ratio (OR; 95%CI) for impaired glucose tolerance was 2.1 (1.0-4.5; P for trend=0.05) for the highest as compared to the lowest tertile intake of total fructose and 2.3 (1.1-5.1; P for trend=0.05) for the highest as compared to the lowest tertile intake of sweetened fruit juices.