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Type 2 Diabetes Accelerates Brain Aging and Cognitive Decline

0 2 years ago

The authors evaluated the relationship between typical brain aging and that seen in type 2 diabetes, and observed that type 2 diabetes follows a similar pattern of neurodegeneration as aging, but one that progresses faster.

One important implication of this finding is that even typical brain aging may reflect changes in the brain’s regulation of glucose by insulin.

The results further suggest that by the time type 2 diabetes is formally diagnosed, there may already be significant structural damage to the brain. Sensitive ways to detect diabetes-associated changes to the brain are therefore urgently needed.

There is already strong evidence linking type 2 diabetes with cognitive decline, yet few patients currently undergo a comprehensive cognitive assessment as part of their clinical care. It can be difficult to distinguish between normal brain aging that begins in middle age, and brain aging caused or accelerated by diabetes.

To date, no studies have directly compared neurological changes in healthy people over the course of their lifespan with changes to those experienced by people of the same age with diabetes.

“Routine clinical assessments for diagnosing diabetes typically focus on blood glucose, insulin levels and body mass percentage,” says first author Botond Antal, a Ph.D. student at the Department of Biomedical Engineering, Stony Brook University, New York, US.

“However, the neurological effects of type 2 diabetes may reveal themselves many years before they can be detected by standard measures, so by the time type 2 diabetes is diagnosed by conventional tests, patients may have already sustained irreversible brain damage.”

To define the impact of diabetes on the brain over and above normal aging, the team made use of the largest available brain structure and function dataset across human lifespan: UK Biobank data from 20,000 people aged 50 to 80 years old.

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