The brains of adults who were diagnosed with type 1 diabetes during childhood showed accelerated brain aging, which could lead to a breakdown of cognitive function.
The study, published in Neurology, found that middle-aged adults with type 1 diabetes had greater amounts of white matter hyperintensities, which could make them less able to process information.
White matter hyperintensities naturally become more prevalent as people age, and are also seen at a much higher rate in people with neurological disorders.
The study was conducted by examining the number of white matter hyperintensities in 178 people. 97 had type 1 diabetes, and the other 81 did not. The mean age of the participants was around 49.
33 per cent of the type 1 diabetes group showed signs of moderate to severe rates of white matter hyperintensities, compared to only seven per cent of the group without type 1 diabetes. Not only were white matter hyperintensities more common in people with type 1 diabetes, they were also more severe.
The researchers then conducted a series of three cognitive tests, which tested the participants’ ability to process information, their dexterity, and their verbal intelligence. The tests were designed so as not to be influenced by age, education, or similar factors.
The participants with white matter hyperintensities were slower at processing information than those without white matter hyperintensities. Being at higher risk of white matter hyperintensities, therefore, people with type 1 diabetes are more likely to experience difficulties processing information.
Other factors that increased levels of white matter hyperintensities were smoking and neuropathy. The researchers found that blood pressure and hyperglycemia did not influence the levels of white matter hyperintensities.
“People with type 1 diabetes are living longer than ever before, and the incidence of type 1 diabetes is increasing annually,” said lead author Karen A. Nunley, PhD.
“We must learn more about the impact of this disease as patients age. Long-term studies are needed to better detect potential issues and determine what interventions may reduce or prevent accelerated brain aging and cognitive decline.”
Caterina Rosano, MD and senior study author, said: “The severity of cognitive complications and cerebral small vessel disease – which can starve the brain of oxygen – is much more intense than we expected, but it can be measured in a clinical setting.
“Further study in younger patients is needed, but it stands to reason that early detection and intervention – such as controlling cardiometabolic factors and tighter glycemic control, which help prevent microvascular complications – also could reduce or delay these cognitive complications.”

Get our free newsletters

Stay up to date with the latest news, research and breakthroughs.

You May Also Like

Insulin Dosing Errors in Hospital

Insulin dosing errors in hospital should be rare but have been found…

NHS Diet Advice for Diabetes

In the UK, current 2022 NHS diabetes diet advice is that there…