Study of the Day: The Limits of Sugar Reduction Among Type-2 Diabetics

More

New research shows that dramatically reducing glucose levels doesn't curb brain deterioration that could lead to disability and dementia

main Lucas Jackson Reuters RTR23PNN.jpg

PROBLEM: Type 2 diabetics more than 70 years old are twice as likely as those with normal levels of blood sugar to have diminished brain mass and abilities. These declines are associated with cardiovascular disease, severe hypoglycemic events, and difficulty following disease management protocols. Could dramatically cutting glucose levels slow down or even reverse this dangerous trend?

METHODOLOGY: With the help of 2,977 elderly patients with type 2 diabetes, the researchers compared the effects on brain size and function of intensive and standard glycemic control. Initially, the authors intended to measure cognitive performance through tests and brain size through magnetic resonance imaging after 40 months. They decided, however, to switch all the participants to the standard glucose-lowering strategy at a median treatment time of 39 months after observing an increased risk of dying in the intensive group.

RESULTS: Patients in the rigorous program had a significantly larger brain at 40 months than the patients in the standard treatment group. But the good news ends there. The observed heightened risk of dying, increase in hypoglycemic events, and weight gain rendered the intensive treatment impractical. Average cognitive ability between the two groups was also the same.

CONCLUSION: Lowering blood glucose sharply does not prevent cognitive decline in people with type 2 diabetes.

IMPLICATION: Further research on strategies to restore brain health among diabetics is imperative. The participants, who were on average 62 years old, were already experiencing an annual brain volume loss at rates reported by non-diabetics who were 15 years older, the authors say. Further decline in brain capacity could lead to earlier loss of function and dementia.

SOURCE: The full study, "Effects of Intensive Glucose Lowering on Brain Structure and Function in People with Type 2 Diabetes (ACCORD MIND): A Randomised Open-Label Substudy," is published in the journal The Lancet: Neurology.

Image: REUTERS/Lucas Jackson.

Jump to comments
Presented by

Hans Villarica writes for and produces The Atlantic's Health channel. His work has appeared in TIME, People Asia, and Fast Company.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

What's the Number One Thing We Could Do to Improve City Life?

A group of journalists, professors, and non-profit leaders predict the future of livable, walkable cities


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.

Video

What Makes a Story Great?

The storytellers behind House of CardsandThis American Life reflect on the creative process.

Video

Tracing Sriracha's Origin to Thailand

Ever wonder how the wildly popular hot sauce got its name? It all started in Si Racha.

Video

Where Confiscated Wildlife Ends Up

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.

Video

Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.

Video

The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air

Writers

Up
Down

More in Health

Just In