My memory isn’t what it once was. Just the other day, while working in the garden, snippets of a ’60s (or was it ’70s?) pop song began playing in my head, and I spent the better part of the afternoon waiting impatiently for my brain to download its source. Eventually it came to me: Oh man, I hate that tune!
Memories can be like that here in Geezerville — elusive and often unsatisfying. Still, I was intrigued to learn last week that there’s now a proven way for the elderly to sharpen their recollection abilities. We just need to eat more . . . sugar.
In an article published in the journal Psychology and Aging, researchers at the University of Warwick revealed the results of a study suggesting that boosting blood-sugar levels not only improved memory among older adults but also made them happier as they performed a task. The findings, study coauthor Konstantinos Mantantzis notes, could help scientists better understand the factors that keep geezers engaged in the world.
“Over the years, studies have shown that actively engaging with difficult cognitive tasks is a prerequisite for the maintenance of cognitive health in older age,” Mantantzis explains. “Therefore, the implications of uncovering the mechanisms that determine older adults’ levels of engagement cannot be understated.”
Mantantzis and his team don’t explain why a shot of glucose might have such salutary effects, but anyone who has watched a kid soar, crash, and burn after devouring too much Halloween candy probably has a clue. Sugar tends to spark a high level of short-term enthusiasm.
But before you drink Mantantzis’s Kool-Aid, you might heed the results of earlier research suggesting that elevated blood-sugar levels may actually lead to memory loss. A 10-year study published earlier this year in the journal Diabetologia found “significant” long-term associations between blood-sugar levels and cognitive decline.
There are plenty of other reasons to reduce your sugar consumption, as well — not the least of which is its link to type 2 diabetes, obesity, and even Alzheimer’s. So, I think I’ll pass on the glucose solution. And the next time a bad pop song lodges in my brain, maybe I’ll just hum along.