Elevated cerebrospinal fluid glucose levels and diabetes mellitus are associated with activation of the neurotoxic polyol pathway

Celien Tigchelaar, Mark L. van Zuylen, Abraham H. Hulst, Benedikt Preckel, André P. van Beek, Ido P. Kema, Jeroen Hermanides, Anthony R. Absalom

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Aims/hypothesis: During hyperglycaemia, some glucose bypasses glycolysis and is metabolised via the potentially neurotoxic polyol pathway, in which glucose is metabolised to sorbitol and fructose. Increased polyol concentrations have been demonstrated in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) of neurological patients with and without diabetes mellitus. However, polyol levels in patients without evident neurological abnormalities have not been investigated so far. The aim of this study was to determine CSF polyol concentrations in patients without major neurological disease with normal or elevated CSF glucose concentrations. Methods: This observational cohort study used CSF and plasma analyses, as well as clinical data, from 30 participants of the Anaesthetic Biobank of Cerebrospinal Fluid study. Biomaterial was collected from adult patients scheduled for elective surgery under spinal anaesthesia. CSF polyol concentrations were measured by GC/flame ionisation detector in ten patients with normal CSF glucose levels (group 1), ten patients with elevated CSF glucose levels (group 2) and ten patients with elevated CSF glucose levels and type 2 diabetes (group 3). We compared the concentrations of plasma glucose, CSF glucose, sorbitol and fructose, and CSF polyol/glucose ratios between the three groups, and determined the correlation between plasma glucose levels and CSF glucose, sorbitol and fructose levels. Results: Groups 2 and 3 had significantly higher CSF fructose levels compared with group 1 (p=0.036 and p<0.001, respectively). Group 3 showed significant differences compared with groups 1 and 2 for CSF sorbitol (p<0.001 and 0.036, respectively). Moreover, patients with diabetes had a significantly higher CSF sorbitol/glucose ratio compared with patients without diabetes. There was a strong positive correlation between plasma glucose and CSF glucose, sorbitol and fructose. Finally, age, sex, CSF/plasma albumin ratio and preoperative cognitive function scores were significantly correlated with plasma glucose and CSF glucose, sorbitol and fructose levels. Conclusions/interpretation: Hyperglycaemia causes a proportional increase in polyol concentrations in CSF of patients without major neurological disease. Furthermore, this study provides the first indication of upregulation of the cerebral polyol pathway in patients with diabetes without evident neurological abnormalities. Graphical abstract: [Figure not available: see fulltext.]

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1098-1107
Number of pages10
Issue number7
Early online date2022
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2022


  • Cerebrospinal fluid
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Fructose
  • Hyperglycaemia
  • Neurocognitive function
  • Polyol pathway
  • Sorbitol

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