Glycemic Variability and CNS Inflammation: Reviewing the Connection

Nutrients. 2020 Dec 21;12(12):3906. doi: 10.3390/nu12123906.


Glucose is the primary energy source for the brain, and exposure to both high and low levels of glucose has been associated with numerous adverse central nervous system (CNS) outcomes. While a large body of work has highlighted the impact of hyperglycemia on peripheral and central measures of oxidative stress, cognitive deficits, and vascular complications in Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, there is growing evidence that glycemic variability significantly drives increased oxidative stress, leading to neuroinflammation and cognitive dysfunction. In this review, the latest data on the impact of glycemic variability on brain function and neuroinflammation will be presented. Because high levels of oxidative stress have been linked to dysfunction of the blood-brain barrier (BBB), special emphasis will be placed on studies investigating the impact of glycemic variability on endothelial and vascular inflammation. The latest clinical and preclinical/in vitro data will be reviewed, and clinical/therapeutic implications will be discussed.

Keywords: blood–brain barrier; cognitive dysfunction; diabetes; endothelial inflammation; glycemic variability; neuroinflammation; oxidative stress; vascular dysfunction.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Blood Glucose / metabolism*
  • Blood-Brain Barrier / physiopathology
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Cardiovascular Physiological Phenomena / drug effects*
  • Central Nervous System / physiopathology*
  • Glycemic Control
  • Humans
  • Hyperglycemia / physiopathology*
  • Inflammation
  • Oxidative Stress / drug effects*


  • Blood Glucose