American researchers have established a connection between stress, inflammation and type 2 diabetes that could be linked to the brain’s ability to control anxiety.
Scientists at Rice University, Texas, found this control occurs with the brain’s executive functions and affects decisions regarding problem solving, working memory, reasoning and planning.
The study team wanted to investigate how anxious arousal and inflammation were linked to type 2 diabetes. Their research followed previous studies that found vulnerability to distracting information or thoughts can lead to frequent anxiety. This anxiety is known to activate a metabolic pathway that produces a pro-inflammatory response, which can increase the risk of type 2 diabetes.
More than 800 adults were recruited to complete measures of cognitive abilities. They were also measured for blood glucose levels and levels of interleukin-6 (IL-6), a biomarker of acute and chronic stress.
Participants with low attention control, or inhibitio, were more likely to have type 2 diabetes than those with high attention control because of the pathway from high anxiety to IL-6. These findings existed regardless of how participants performed in the cognitive tests.
Lead author Kyle Murdock explained: “The literature shows individuals with poor inhibition are more likely to experience stressful thoughts and have a harder time breaking their attention away from them.
“Plenty of research shows that when individuals are stressed or anxious or depressed, inflammation goes up. The novel part of our study was establishing the pathway from inhibition to anxiety to inflammation to diabetes.”
Murdock and the study authors highlighted a number of interventions that could improve inhibition over time. These include mindfulness therapy, cognitive behavioural therapy and anti-inflammatory medicines.
Study author Christopher Fagundes added: “I’m a firm believer that mindfulness-based approaches to treatment are a great idea, for a lot of reasons. That doesn’t mean medicines that promote inhibitio, such as stimulants, shouldn’t be considered, but a combination of the two could be really helpful.”
The study appears in the online journal Psychoneuroendocrinology.

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