Harvard Mental Health Letter

In Brief: Type 2 diabetes may slow thinking ability early on

In Brief

Type 2 diabetes may slow thinking ability early on

Several teams of researchers have published papers reporting that type 2 diabetes accelerates cognitive decline as people age, and doubles the risk of eventually developing dementia. Now researchers at the University of Alberta, Canada, have concluded that the damage to mental functioning apparently occurs early on in the type 2 diabetes disease process.

The researchers collected data through the Victoria Longitudinal Study, an ongoing study of health changes that occur with age. This analysis involved 41 adults with type 2 diabetes and 424 healthy controls, all living in the community. Nearly 98% of the patients with type 2 diabetes said it was mild or moderate and said they controlled their blood sugar levels with diet, exercise, oral medication, or some combination. About 7% were taking insulin.

Previous reports about the cognitive impact of type 2 diabetes have generally examined overall thinking ability or one or two specific domains. In this study, the researchers evaluated study participants' scores on a battery of tests to assess overall thinking ability as well as specific aspects of memory, reasoning, verbal skills, and mental processing speed.

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