Poor Glucose Management Affects Brain Long Term

by Mark Benson on June 24, 2012

New studies on long term effects of diabetes mellitus

According to a study from the online version of the Archives of Neurology has found that Diabetes Mellitus together with poor glucose control in elderly adults without symptoms of dementia have been linked to lower cognitive functions and increased cognitive decline.

Studies conducted earlier surmised that cognitive decline in individuals suffering from diabetes was a significant health issue. This is the first study that clearly showed the greater risk of cognitive decline, and this is prevalent in individuals developing diabetes in advanced stages of their life. This is also the first study to correlate the rate of cognitive decline with the severity of diabetes.

The study’s background information have found the link between diabetes mellitus and higher cognitive impairment risk together with dementia and Alzheimer’s. While this association is controversial, as the knowledge about incident DM in advanced age and cognitive function over time is still to be answered.

In order to find out more, Kristine Yaffe MD of the University of California in San Francisco with the San Francisco VA Medical Center medical team reviewed the case files of 3,069 patients. The average age of 74.2 years, with 42% of participants were African American and 52% were female. Before the start of the study, the participants filled out the Modified Mini-Mental State Examination (3MS) and Digit Symbol Substitution Test (DSST). The same tests were repeated over several periods within ten years.

The findings showed that 717 participants or 23.4% had diabetes mellitus at the beginning of the study while 2,352 or 76.6% had no such illness. During the follow-up, it was found that 159 participants had developed the metabolic condition. Those with diabetes at the start had lower 3MS and DSST test results compared to those without DM. These findings demonstrate a similar pattern of decline over the period of nine years where participants suffering from DM had shown a decline in both tests compared with those who did not develop diabetes mellitus.

The researchers further found that the elevated hemoglobin A1c(HbA1c) levels and lower 3MS and DSST scores in these participants with diabetes at the beginning of the study. After adjustment for variables, such as age, sex, education and race, the scores were still significantly lower in those between 7-8% and high or greater than HbA1c levels with the 3MS test while the difference was not significant with the results of the DSST test.

The researchers said, “The study supports the hypothesis that older adults with DM have reduced cognitive function and that poor glycemic control may contribute to this association. Future studies should determine if early diagnosis and treatment of DM lessen the risk of developing cognitive impairment and if maintaining optimal glucose control helps mitigate the effect of DM on cognition.”

The study’s researchers examined the blood marker “glycosylated hemoglobin”, which is already a standard measure of the severity of diabetes and the ability to control its effects over time. The marker further indicates the prevalence of high blood sugar because the molecules of sugar have become permanently attached to hemoglobin proteins in the blood. Dr. Yaffe and her team found that the higher levels of the biomarker were a precursor with more severe cognitive dysfunction.


The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the DiabetesForum.com Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: