Type 2 diabetes may actually be eating away at the brain, reported HealthDay News.
According to new research published April 29 in the online edition of Radiology, diabetes causes brain shrinkage with age. Interestingly, though, the decrease in brain volume isn't linked to the damage of tiny blood vessels in the brain, but instead to how the brain handles excess sugar. Chronically high levels of insulin and sugar might be toxic to brain cells, the study suggests.
"This would definitely be a potential cause of dementia," said Dr. Sam Gandy, director of the Center for Cognitive Health at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.
It's not news that diabetes hurts the brain; doctors have long known the disease is associated with an increased risk for stroke and dementia, said lead researcher Dr. R. Nick Bryan, a professor of radiology at the University of Pennsylvania's Perleman School of Medicine in Philadelphia. The recent study sheds light on why—with sugar as a main culprit.
"It is important that patients understand the adverse effect of their disease on their brains and cooperate with their doctors who are trying to treat their diabetes and prevent the effects of diabetes on the brain and other organs," he said.
The study used MRI scans to examine the brains of 614 people who had type 2 diabetes for an average of about 10 years. Research indicated the longer a person had diabetes, the more brain shrinkage occurred, most significantly of gray matter—areas of the brain responsible for muscle control, eyesight, hearing, memory, speech, decision-making and self-control.
Every decade of diabetes advanced the brain's appearance of age by two years compared to someone without diabetes, Bryan said.