In a study involving almost 10,000 elderly women, Edward W. Gregg, MD, and researchers from the Centers for Disease Control found that long-time sufferers of diabetes were more susceptible to failing memory and other cognitive problems. Those who had diabetes for more than 15 years were 57% to 114% more likely to suffer a decline in cognitive function and mental faculties than women without diabetes. The findings were reported in the January issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.
At the start of the study, all the test subjects were tested on their memory, thinking and reasoning. The tests were repeated again three years, and six years, later. Only 7% of the women had diabetes at the beginning of the study.
The researchers concede that they are still not clear about how diabetes impacts mental function, but they believe the answer may lie in the higher cardiovascular risks traditionally associated with type 2 diabetes. Stroke and other vascular diseases can also impact brain function.
As the test subjects were all white, the findings of the study cannot apply to men and minorities.
The study authors speculate that the successful control of diabetes may reduce the risks of mental impairment in the elderly, but cautions that more research is needed before any conclusion can be reached.