Type 2 Diabetes May Cause Brain to Shrink

Dorian Martin Health Guide April 30, 2014
  • Consider this the case of the incredible shrinking brain – and there’s a possibility you can head it off at the pass.


    Type 2 diabetes – which has been identified as a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease – also may pose a threat to your brain’s size, according to new research. This study out of the University of Pennsylvania involved 614 participants who had been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes for an average of 10 years. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans were used to look at the participants’ brains.


    These scans showed that there was participants who had been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes for the longest period of time experienced more brain shrinkage. Furthermore, the scans revealed that the physiological changes in these brains were estimated to be the equivalent of what is seen in a brain that was at least two years older than the participants' actual age.  The brains of participants who were the same age and who didn’t have Type 2 diabetes were normal in appearance. The researchers indicated that their study found an association between Type 2 diabetes and the loss of brain volume, but that it doesn’t prove that this condition caused the brain shrinkage.


    With that said, the researchers believe that Type 2 diabetes may start to destroy the brain’s brain cells as well as damage its blood vessels. They are hypothesizing that the shrinkage may be due to how the brain uses sugar. However, the researchers are not sure if treating Type 2 diabetes will prevent or slow the shrinkage of the brain.


    Therefore, it’s really important to do everything possible to avoid developing Type 2 diabetes in the first place. The good news is that Type 2 diabetes can be delayed – and even prevented in many cases. To do so, the American Diabetes Association recommends the following steps:

    • Keep your weight in check. Being overweight increases the risk of this condition as well as heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, bad cholesterol and high blood sugar levels. Just losing 10-15 pounds can help lower your risk of Type 2 diabetes.
    • A healthy diet is a key component of maintaining a healthy weight and avoiding Type 2 diabetes. This diet should include healthy carbohydrates (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, peas, lentils and low-fat dairy products), fiber-rich foods (vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans, peas, lentils, whole-wheat flour and wheat bran), heart-healthy fish (salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines, bluefish, cod, tuna and halibut), and monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (avocados, almonds, pecans, walnuts, olives, canola oil, olive oil and peanut oil). Foods to avoid include saturated fats (animal proteins and high-fat dairy products), trans fats (processed snacks, baked goods, shortening and stick margarine), cholesterol (high-fat dairy products, high-fat animal proteins, egg yolks, shellfish, liver and organ meats), and sodium.
    • Remain active physically. Being active helps lower your risk of Type 2 diabetes by keeping your blood glucose, blood pressure, HDL cholesterol and triglycerides in the healthy range. You should aim to be active throughout the day. In addition, try to participate in regular aerobic exercise, strength training and flexibility exercises.
    • Stop smoking since it lowers the amount of oxygen your organs receive, increases your bad cholesterol and ups your blood pressure.
    • High blood pressure also is a risk factor for Type 2 diabetes. You can reduce high blood pressure through eating whole-grain breads and cereals, lowering your use of salt, reading food labels to identify packaged foods that have a high sodium content, limiting alcohol consumption, quitting smoking, and taking prescribed medications.
    • Unhealthy cholesterol levels also increase the risk of this Type of diabetes. You can improve these levels through stopping smoking, losing weight, exercising most days, eating a low-fat and low-cholesterol diet, increasing monounsaturated fats, and taking prescribed medications.
    • High blood sugar also increases your risk of this disease. Blood glucose can change for a variety of reasons – the types of food you eat, activity levels, medications, infections, changes in hormone levels and stress. Therefore, it’s important to work with your health care provider to come up with a plan to control your blood glucose levels.

    Getting ahead of the curve so you don’t develop Type 2 diabetes is increasingly important as you age. By doing so, you’ll be protecting your brain from aging too rapidly as well as the chance of developing dementia.

    Primary Sources for This Sharepost:
    American Diabetes Association. (ND). Lower your risk.
    Mayo Clinic. (2013). Diabetes plan: Create your healthy-eating plan.
    Reinberg, S. (2014). Type 2 diabetes may shrink the brain, study suggests. HealthDay.com.