Diabetes found to speed up brain ageing, study finds

The UK Biobank’s assessment of 20,000 people’s data suggests that diabetes speeds up the natural ageing process of the brain, with prolonged diabetes duration being linked to higher neurodegeneration

Researchers have demonstrated that type 2 diabetes patients’ natural brain ageing is accelerated by about 26% in comparison to persons without the illness, according to a recent study published in eLife.

The researchers studied the relationship between type 2 diabetes and normal ageing of the brain and found that the two have a pattern of neurodegeneration, albeit type 2 diabetes progresses more quickly.

Study utilized data from UK Biobank

The scientists used data from the UK Biobank, which included information on 20,000 people between the ages of 50 and 80, to identify the effects of diabetes on the brain in addition to those caused by normal ageing. This dataset contains information on both healthy people and people who have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, as well as measurements of brain activity and brain scans.

They utilised this to identify the precise brain and cognitive alterations associated with diabetes as opposed to ageing, and they then validated their findings by contrasting them with findings from a meta-analysis of over 100 additional studies.

Ageing and type 2 diabetes both affect brain abilities

The results of their research demonstrated that ageing and type 2 diabetes both affect executive abilities including working memory, learning, and flexible thinking, as well as brain processing speed. However, compared to those of the same age without diabetes, those with diabetes exhibited an additional 13.1 per cent decline in executive function and an additional 6.7 per cent decline in processing speed.

This conclusion was supported by their meta-analysis of further studies: type 2 diabetics consistently and noticeably performed worse cognitively than healthy counterparts of the same age and educational level.

Neurodegeneration accelerated in type 2 diabetes

This research has several important ramifications, one of which is that even typical brain ageing may be associated with changes in the brain’s insulin-dependent control of blood glucose.

The results also suggest that by the time type 2 diabetes is properly recognised, there may already be significant anatomical damage to the brain. Therefore, it is crucial to create sensitive techniques to detect diabetes-related brain alterations.

The findings imply that neurodegeneration is accelerated in type 2 diabetes and that its patterns significantly coincide with those of normal ageing. Additionally, the severity of these impacts on brain function increased with longer diabetes duration.

In actuality, a 26 per cent faster rate of brain ageing was shown to be associated with diabetes progression.

Cognitive assessment of patients needed

A thorough cognitive screening is rarely provided to patients today as part of their clinical treatment, despite the fact that there is a lot of data linking type 2 diabetes with cognitive decline.

It could be challenging to distinguish between brain ageing that happens naturally in middle age and brain ageing brought on or accelerated by diabetes.

Pertinently, no studies have yet directly compared the neurological changes that occur in healthy individuals over the entire life course to those that occur in individuals with diabetes of the same age.

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