The Scary Way Diabetes Affects Thinking Skills And Brain Function

A growing body of research is finding that diabetes can take as devastating a toll on the brain as it takes on the body.

A new study published this week in the journal Neurology shows that people with type 2 diabetes demonstrate a decline in cognitive skills and ability to perform daily activities over the course of only two years.

These changes are linked with an impaired ability to regulate blood flow in the brain, due in part to inflammation, which is a common component of type 2 diabetes.

Normally, the brain distributes blood as needed to areas of increased neural activity. In diabetic individuals, however, this process becomes impaired.

“We have shown that people with diabetes have abnormal blood flow regulation in the brain, namely impaired ability to increase blood flow and deliver sugar and oxygen to the brain during episodes of increased mental activity,” the study’s lead author, Dr. Vera Novak of the Harvard Medical School, told The Huffington Post in an email. “Inflammation further alters blood flow regulation in diabetic people and contributes to mental and functional decline.”

For the study, the researchers recruited 65 men and women with an average age of 66, half of whom had Type 2 diabetes and half of whom did not. The participants were given a series of memory and cognition tests at the outset of the study and again two years later. They also received brain scans to measure brain volume and blood flow and blood tests to measure inflammation and blood sugar control.

Here are some of the key findings: