Scientists have demonstrated that normal brain aging is accelerated by approximately 26% in people with progressive type 2 diabetes compared with individuals without the disease, reports a study published today in eLife.
The authors evaluated the relationship between typical brain aging and that seen in type 2 diabetes, and observed that type 2 diabetes follows a similar pattern of neurodegeneration as aging, but which progresses faster. One important implication of this finding is that even typical brain aging may reflect changes in the brain’s regulation of glucose by insulin.
The results further suggest that by the time type 2 diabetes is formally diagnosed, there may already be significant structural damage to the brain. Sensitive ways to detect diabetes-associated changes to the brain are therefore urgently needed.
There is already strong evidence linking type 2 diabetes with cognitive decline, yet few patients currently undergo a comprehensive cognitive assessment as part of their clinical care. It can be difficult to distinguish between normal brain aging that begins in middle age, and brain aging caused or accelerated by diabetes. To date, no studies have directly compared neurological changes in healthy people over the course of their lifespan with changes to those experienced by people of the same age with diabetes.