Experts think they may have discovered why type 2 diabetes is often linked with memory loss.
A team from South Korea says it is because overweight or obese people develop thinner grey matter in certain parts of their brain which relate to memory.
Lead author Dr In Kyoon Lyoo, who is director of the Ewha University Brain Institute in Seoul, South Korea said: “Obesity leads to increased risk of type 2 diabetes, metabolic dysfunction and is also associated with brain alterations independently.
“We aimed to investigate whether overweight/obesity influenced brain structure and cognitive function in individuals with early stage of type 2 diabetes.”
During the trial, the researchers looked at 150 people who were broken down into three different groups. One group was made up of 50 overweight people with type 2 diabetes; the second group comprised 50 individuals with type 2 diabetes who had a normal weight; and a further 50 participants of a normal weight were recruited who did not have diabetes.
All the participants were aged between 30 and 60 years and none of them used insulin to control their diabetes.
Dr Lyoo said: “Cortical thickness was decreased in several regions of the brains [of people with type 2]. Further thinning of the temporal lobes found in overweight/obese individuals with type 2 diabetes suggests that these regions are specifically vulnerable to combined effects of obesity and type 2 diabetes.”
The findings did not specify whether poor memory function is from excess weight or diabetes or a combination of both. However, the research team did discover that those who had the longest duration of type 2 diabetes were more likely to experience brain changes.
They also found that memory skills decreased significantly in people with type 2 diabetes, regardless of their weight, compared to people who did not have the condition.
The authors concluded: “Our findings also highlight the need for early intervention aimed to reduce risk factors for overweight or obesity in type 2 diabetic individuals to preserve their brain structure and cognitive function.
“An increased awareness of overweight/obesity-related risk is necessary to prevent and manage type 2 diabetes-related brain atrophy and cognitive dysfunction from early stage T2D onward.”
The findings of the study were published in the journal Diabetologia.

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