Diabetes Linked to Cognitive Problems

FRIDAY Jan. 9, 2009 -- Adults with diabetes now have to worry about whether their disease might slow their thinking, as Canadian researchers report that declines in mental function are accelerated among those with the blood sugar condition.

In the analysis, published in the January issue of Neuropsychology, scientists from the University of Alberta culled data from a large study that has been tracking signs of aging every three years. In the diabetes study, the researchers looked at 41 adults with diabetes and compared them to a group of 424 adults without the disease.

Healthy adults performed better than adults with diabetes in terms of executive function, with significant differences across four different tests, and speed, with significant differences across five different tests. There were no marked differences on tests of episodic and semantic memory, verbal fluency, reaction time and perceptual speed.

The differences existed no matter what the age of the participants, a pattern that suggests that diabetes-linked cognitive deficits appear early and remain stable.

"Speed and executive functioning are thought to be among the major components of cognitive health," study co-author Roger Dixon said in a news release from the journal's publisher. Since the incidence of type 2 diabetes is increasing among adults of all ages, Dixon said that public health programs could check the cognitive status of people with the disease.

"There could be some ways to compensate for these declines, at least early and with proper management," Dixon added.

Previous research has linked diabetes to neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's, so further study would show whether mild early deficits in speed and executive function might be precursors to serious cognitive impairment later.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, new cases of diabetes nearly doubled in the past decade, with almost one new case for every 100 adults between 2005 and 2007.

More information

For more on type 2 diabetes, go to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

Posted: January 2009


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