Depression: High blood sugar and lower grey matter links.

Depression: High blood sugar and lower grey matter links.

Around the world, 5% of adults are thought to be depressed. A known risk factor for depression is fluctuations in a person’s blood sugar levels.

The relationship between blood sugar levels and the likelihood of developing depression, according to Sun Yat-sen University researchers, may be mediated by decreased grey matter volume in the brain.

About 5% of the adult population worldwide suffers from depression, a mental illness that makes a person feel incredibly depressed and hopeless to the point where they are unable to enjoy their daily activities.

Variations in glycemia, or a person’s blood sugar levels, are one of the many risk factors for depression.

According to earlier research, people with diabetes, a disorder in which a person struggles to maintain adequate blood sugar levels, are two to three times more likely to experience depression.

The relationship between blood sugar levels and depression may now have a precise biological cause. This is according to researchers from Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, China.

According to research, the association between blood sugar levels and the risk of depression may be mediated by a decreased grey matter volume in the brain.

Depression, blood sugar, and brain structure

According to Dr. Hualiang Lin, a professor in the Department of Epidemiology at Sun Yat-sen University and the study’s corresponding author, they chose to investigate the effect of blood sugar on the risk of developing depression. Earlier research has established a link between changes in blood sugar levels and the development of depression.

Also, a lot of research has shown a clear connection between depression development and changes in brain structure and function. As a result, the information that is now available strongly supports that brain anatomy may play a moderating role in the co-morbidity of diabetes and depression. As a result, we carried out this research to learn more about this connection, said Dr. Lin.

Changes in the amount of grey matter in the brain have been linked in the past to depression. According to a 2019 study, particular changes in gray-matter volume were linked to lifetime major depressive illness.

Additionally, a study conducted in 2022 discovered that individuals with significant depression, bipolar illness, and schizophrenia spectrum disorders frequently have lower hippocampus grey matter volume.

Examining brain’s grey matter

Dr. Lin and his team gathered information from more than 500,000 UK Biobank individuals between the ages of 40 and 69 for this observational study.

Researchers examined the data and discovered a “significant correlation” between sadness, decreased grey matter volume, and raised levels of HbA1c, or glycosylated hemoglobin.

A quick test called HbA1c determines a person’s blood sugar levels during the previous three months, or glycosylated hemoglobin.

In comparison to study participants with or without diabetes, researchers found that a reduced grey matter volume was associated with depression. This association was particularly pronounced in study participants with prediabetes.

Even if the outcome supports our hypothesis, Dr. Lin stated, “We are still very excited about it.”

Previous studies on the specific brain regions connected to depression have been rather scarce, frequently concentrating on well-established clinical regions such the hippocampus or prefrontal cortex. Contrarily, we were able to more thoroughly analyse and identify probable grey matter regions that may be connected to depression in our study since it made use of MRI data from hundreds of different brain areas,” he said.

Age as a risk factor for increased risk

Furthermore, participants in the study who were 60 years of age or older had the strongest correlation between decreased grey matter volume and depression.

According to Dr. Lin, “This finding has important public health implications, particularly for the neurological health of older individuals.”

In particular, the findings indicate that in older people compared to younger people, the decline in grey matter volume is more pronounced for every one unit increase in HbA1c. The difference can be more than twice as great in some brain regions, according to Dr. Hualiang Lin.

This study shows that we may soon face increased dangers to brain health and mental well-being, he said, “given the global trend of population aging and the rising risk of diabetes.”

What does a normal blood sugar level mean?

Glucose, sometimes referred to as blood sugar, is crucial for numerous bodily processes. It is the body’s main source of energy, to start. And glucose is what “feeds” the brain, keeping it active and maintaining connections amongst its associated nerve cells.

The food you eat, especially carbohydrates like starchy vegetables, whole grains, and fruits, provides the body with blood sugar. Glucose is released into the bloodstream as these nutrients are broken down by the body through the digestive tract.

The pancreas starts to secrete insulin as soon as blood glucose levels increase. To give the body’s cells with the energy they require, insulin aids glucose absorption.

An individual with diabetes or one who is at risk for getting it may have high fasting blood sugar levels:

  • A good fasting blood sugar level is one that is 99 mg/dL or lower.
  • Prediabetes is indicated by a fasting blood sugar level between 100 and 125 mg/dL.
  • One has diabetes if their fasting blood sugar level is 126 mg/dL or greater.

Hyperglycemia, or having too much glucose in the bloodstream, can cause the following symptoms:

Could controlling blood sugar lessen depression?

Dr. Daniel Pompa, a cellular health expert, author of the “Cellular Healing Diet,” and host of a weekly Cellular Healing TV podcast and YouTube show. He stated after reviewing this study that it has long been known that blood sugar levels have a significant impact on brain health. Also, this study only serves to further that understanding.

High glucose levels cause brain inflammation, which lowers cognitive function and emotional control. According to Dr. Daniel Pompa, long-term exposure to elevated glucose levels has been related to altered brain circuits that raise the chance of developing depression.

In those with prediabetes and type 2 diabetes, higher levels of glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1c) are associated with a reduction in brain capacity. Elevated HbA1c is linked to decreased grey matter sizes in regions including the hippocampus, thalamus, and prefrontal cortex. This is according to several other research that have supported this, Dr. Pompa continued.

As a strategy to treat type 2 diabetes, Dr. Pompa said he would like to see further research on the impact of lifestyle modifications and fasting. It also brain scans to measure these people’s grey matter volume.

In particular, he asked, “Can reducing type 2 diabetes symptoms stop or even reverse the loss of grey matter and lower rates of depression?”

Dr. Matthew J. Freeby, director of the Gonda Diabetes Centre and associate director of diabetes clinical programmes at the David Geffen UCLA School of Medicine, said: “Unfortunately, depression is quite common in people living with diabetes, and there’s not much known as to the connection. For a better understanding of the problem’s causes and potential treatments, more research is urgently needed.

Although this research makes an interesting observation, Dr. Freeby stated that he did not believe we could yet identify physical changes in grey matter volume as the explanation.


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