Eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise can help prevent poor blood circulation to the brain in people with type 2 diabetes, researchers have said.
The intervention was particularly successful among overweight individuals in helping to increase or maintain blood flow to the brain.
Because type 2 diabetes is known to impair blood flow to the brain as a result of blood vessels becoming stiff, which reduces oxygen to the body, this can impact cognitive processes such as decision making.
Using data from the Action for Health in Diabetes (Look AHEAD) study, researchers investigated whether eating a low-calorie diet and getting physical activity could have positive effects of the brain. The 10-year study involved overweight or obese people aged between 45-76 years who all had type 2 diabetes.
During the trial the participants were divided into two groups. One group was asked to eat between 1,200-1,800 calories in a bid to lose weight, as well as carry out 175 minutes of exercise a week. The other group had to attend Diabetes Support and Education classes. Comparisons between both groups were measured and recorded at regular screening appointments.
Ten years after enrollment, participants took part in an MRI brain scan where they had their mental functions studied. Some of the exercises they took part in included verbal learning, memory, decision-making ability and other cognitive functions. Researchers said 97 per cent of those who took part in the scan met the quality control standards they had set for the trial.
The researchers said those who had been in the exercise and diet group had better blood flow to the brain. But participants’ weight was shown to alter the findings: the intervention was most effective among those who were overweight but not obese.
The findings appear online in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.