Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Diabetes, Obesity May Impair Cognitive Function


“Fat Head,” used to be considered an insult, yet fat is essential for the growth of healthy, smart brains. Fat contributes to the development nerve cells (neurons) and synapses, the connections between neurons responsible for thought, communication, emotion, movement and memory. Myelin insulates the axons of neurons and facilitates rapid transmission of nerve impulses. Several types of fats are critical for proper brain development, including cholesterol, which is essential for myelination of axons and for the production of the vesicles that carry neurotransmitters across the synapse. The brain is the most cholesterol rich organ in the body. Therefore, anything that reduces the amount of cholesterol in the brain may in fact impair cognitive function.

Recent research suggests that drugs that lower cholesterol, like statins, may impair cognitive function, while a new study suggests that diabetes, which affects cholesterol production, may reduce cholesterol production in the brain. In the study, researchers found that diabetic mice had reduced levels of cholesterol in the membranes of their neurons near the synapses. If the same holds true for people, this could have profound implications for diabetics, particularly the growing number of diabetic children who may find their disease impairing their academic success.

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