Surprising relationship discovered between blood sugar level and brain tumors

By: Emily Lunardo | Brain Function | Thursday, May 04, 2017 - 07:30 AM

Surprising relationship discovered between blood sugar level and brain tumorsHaving a tumor in the brain is not only a terrifying thing, but one that carries many debilitating traits along with it, from severe headaches to epileptic episodes. Another debilitating condition is diabetes, and it affects far more people than brain tumors ever could. Living with poorly controlled diabetes can often lead to several neurological conditions such as nerve damage and even poor wound healing. While both seem to be unrelated, new research has found a link between blood sugar and brain tumors that may shed some light on how certain cancers develop.

Considered quite a surprising relationship, researchers from Ohio State University have discovered that although many cancers are common among diabetic patients, brain tumors called gliomas are the least common in those with elevated blood sugar levels. This correlation appears to suggest that having high blood sugar may, in fact, reduce a person’s risk of developing brain tumors. This discovery further builds on the researcher’s previous studies on the subject, both of which were led by Judith Schwartzbaum, an associate professor of epidemiology and a researcher in Ohio State’s Comprehensive Cancer Center.

“Diabetes and elevated blood sugar increase the risk of cancer at several sites including the colon, breast, and bladder. But in this case, these rare malignant brain tumors are more common among people who have normal levels of blood glucose than those with high blood sugar or diabetes,” said Schwartzbaum.

The researchers reached this conclusion after analyzing data from two large long-term studies that followed 269,365 Austrians and Swedes looking for glioma development. Then, by evaluating blood sugar levels and diabetes, they came to this result.

While an interesting development, unfortunately, it raises more questions that the researchers do not know how to answer at this time. They understand that gliomas are one of the most common types of brain tumors, typically diagnosed in middle age, and that there is no effective treatment guaranteeing long-term survival. They do hope that this investigation may provide the basis of several potential treatment options in the future.

Some reasoning’s for this correlation between elevated blood sugar levels and the lower rate of gliomas may be that the tumor itself affects blood glucose levels or that elevated blood sugar or diabetes may paradoxically be a protective factor that reduces brain tumor risk.

Schwartzbaum and the rest of the research team have conducted further research involving restrictive diets and their effect on brain cancer development, but with mixed results. She and the team agree that more research is needed to better explore this relationship.


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Sources:

https://news.osu.edu/news/2017/05/03/diabetes-brain-cancer/
http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/brain-tumor/symptoms-causes/dxc-20117134
https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-017-01553-2

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