Researchers have discovered that having Type 2 diabetes might make a person more prone to brain degeneration. Through MRI scans, they also found that for every 10 years diabetics have the disease, their brain looks two years older than their peers without diabetes.
The study, out of the University of Pennsylvania, was published in the journal Radiology. The scientists found via MRI scans that patients who had a more severe form of Type 2 diabetes had less brain tissue than those who had milder forms, TIME reports. They similarly discovered that while most humans lose about 1.5 to two cubic cm of brain volume each year, the diabetic patients lost about twice that. Researchers also looked at patients who received their diagnosis at least 15 years earlier; the long-affected diabetics had less gray matter compared with those who had been diagnosed four years earlier or less. "We found that diabetic patients have two strikes on the brain," Dr. R. Nick Bryan, the head scientist for the study, told TIME.
Previous studies seemed to show that diabetes has a connection to brain degeneration, but researchers thought it was caused by reduced blood flow to the brain, not shrinking brain mass.
There are still several questions on how diabetes and brain tissue are linked. One theory is that a diabetic's atypical glucose metabolism leads to the formation of free radicals, which in turn increases inflammation, speeding up the dissolution of older brain cells. The research isn't over yet; scientists plan on testing to see if vigorous treatment to lower blood sugar levels can also stop brain loss.