Diabetes is a troublesome disease that causes complications that increase the chances of contracting other serious health conditions. A study published on April 27 provides proof that diabetes, along with excess weight, damages the brain.

The study suggests that people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes should keep their weight at normal levels because overweight diabetics are more at risk for cognitive decline and psychiatric illnesses.

Study Participants

The researchers assembled a group of 50 overweight individuals aged 30 to 60 who were in the early stages of type 2 diabetes. Two other groups were gathered to match the original group according to age and sex. The second group was composed of 50 normal-weight type 2 diabetics who were also in the early stages, while the third, a control group, consisted of 50 healthy individuals.

Searching For Brain Degradation

The researchers focused their attention on brain functions that usually affect type 2 diabetics and noted that obesity also attacks the same areas in the brain.

"So, if you have both, will it be worse than if you have them alone? That's what we looked at in this particular study," endocrinologist and study co-author Dr. Donald C. Simonson said.

Diabetes And The Brain

The participants underwent a magnetic resonance imaging scan and were given psychological examinations that tested their memory, executive function (cognition and planning), and psychomotor speed (reaction time).

By studying the MRI scan results and psychological tests taken by the three subgroups, the researchers discovered that a significant thinning of the cerebral cortex, as well as increased presence of white matter abnormalities, occurred in overweight diabetic participants.

"Cortical thickness was decreased in several regions of the diabetic brains. Further thinning of the temporal lobes found in overweight/obese individuals with type 2 diabetes suggests that these regions are specifically vulnerable to combined effects of obesity and type 2 diabetes," said Dr. In Kyoon Lyoo, the study's senior author and the director of the Brain Institute in South Korea's Ewha University.

Type 2 diabetics with a normal body mass index also showed similar results but the damage was not as advanced as that in overweight participants.

"Most of the things we looked at, you could see that there was a progression, and the obese patients with diabetes were worse than the lean patients with diabetes, and they were both worse than the age-matched controls," Simonson explained.

The study notes that the damaged areas in the brain cater to language comprehension and long-term memory. What is more significant in the findings is that the combined obesity and type 2 diabetes damage is only a milder form of the abnormalities that show up in Alzheimer's disease patients, leading the researchers to believe that diabetes may be a risk factor in the development of Alzheimer's disease.

The research, titled "Brain changes in overweight/obese and normal-weight adults with type 2 diabetes mellitus," was published in the journal Diabetologia.

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