Type 2 Diabetes Relationship to the Brain May be Complicated

brainAchieving tight control over blood sugar levels is one of the best things a person with type 2 diabetes can do to reduce their risk of health complications. However, sometimes the situation may be more complicated than that.

For example, a recent study published in the journal Neurology showed that individuals with type 2 diabetes are significantly more likely to also experience cognitive problems as they grow older. The condition was linked to a much higher risk of Alzheimer's disease.

The researchers who conducted the study said their results could not determine a cause for the increased risk. However, evidence does point to unregulated blood sugar levels. They said that it is now more important than ever for individuals with type 2 diabetes to take steps to control their blood sugar levels as well as possible.

Yet, this may not be enough to stave off Alzheimer's disease. A newer study featured in the journal The Lancet Neurology showed that people with diabetes who take aggressive steps to control their blood sugar are no less at risk for developing cognitive decline than individuals with normally controlled glucose.

Aggressive glucose-lowering treatments have been proposed as a potential way to prevent many health complications associated with type 2 diabetes. The process involves using medications to bring blood glucose down to near-normal levels. Since the majority of diseases associated with diabetes stem from damage caused by high blood sugar, this approach is thought to keep people healthy for longer.

However, after assessing the brain health of a group of participants, some of whom were on aggressive treatments, the Wake Forest University researchers who conducted the study found no difference in total brain volume in diabetes patients, regardless of how strictly they controlled their blood sugar.

The findings complicate the relationship of high blood sugar levels and cognitive ability. On the one hand, researchers have found that excessive glucose levels in the blood may contribute to the development of Alzheimer's disease, while on the other hand, it has been demonstrated that controlling blood sugar levels offers little protection against neurological effects.

More research is needed to sort out this question, but in the meantime, individuals with type 2 diabetes should continue on whatever treatment their doctor has prescribed.

Updated on: December 8, 2015
Updated on: December 8, 2015