Research & Development

Type 2 diabetes may speed up cognitive decline and brain ageing

Researchers have found that among older people with Type 2 diabetes, the brain appears to age at an accelerated rate, according to a study published in the journal eLife. The researchers analysed data from 20,314 people from the UK Biobank between the ages of 50 and 80.
The brain appears to age at a rate of around 26% faster than normal in patients with Type 2 diabetes, the research found, comparing neurological changes in those who did and did not have Type 2 diabetes. The researchers excluded anyone with Type 1 diabetes.
While both groups saw declines in executive functions such as working memory, learning, and flexible thinking, along with declines in brain processing speed, the declines were greater, and occurred faster among those with diabetes. Executive functions declined 13% more among those with diabetes, while brain processing speed decreased 7% more than for those who did not have diabetes. This caused an earlier cognitive decline than that seen with normal aging.
Additionally, the researchers observed the most severe neurocognitive events in participants who had the longest duration of Type 2 diabetes.
“The findings are consistent with other studies in the field, and highlight the idea that metabolic disease and lifestyle factors that influence its prevalence may be important targets for reducing the burden of age-associated cognitive loss,” commented Dr M Kerry O’Banion, MD, PhD, Professor of Neuroscience at the Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience at the University of Rochester, US, speaking to Medical News Today.
The researchers additionally compared their results with those form 94 published studies. The researchers analysed abstract reasoning, executive function, processing speed, reaction time, and numeric memory data. They used MRI scans to assess the atrophy of grey matter, a major component of the central nervous system, in both those living with Type 2 diabetes, and a control group.
The researchers emphasised that the findings of the study underline the importance of better diagnosis and treatment strategies, targeting the cognitive effects of Type 2 diabetes.