Diabetes has Negative Effect on Brain Function, finds study

A recent study performed by Dr. Vera Novak of Harvard Medical School in Boston shows that diabetes has now been associated with negative effects on the brain. The subjects of the study consisted of 40 people: 19 with Type 2 diabetes and 21 without; and researchers discovered a decrease in cognitive aptitude and the capacity to perform everyday activities within the two year period post-diagnosis.

The participants who had Type 2 diabetes were treated and observed for a period of about 13 years. They were given cognition, memory, and blood tests at the onset of the study and after being treated for two years. Blood tests reveal how well blood sugar and inflammation are being controlled. MRI brain scans were also administered that showed the levels of brain volume and blood flow.


The learning and memory tests that were performed revealed blood flow in the brain had diminished by 65%. This is due to inflammation—a common characteristic of Type 2 diabetes. Poor blood flow regulation weakens the brain’s ability to redistribute blood to the parts of the brain that are exhibiting an increased level of activity. As a result, the brain is unable to provide the blood with the necessary nutrients to perform and neural function is negatively influenced.

In an interview, Novak stated, ““Worse performance on daily activities, worse memory or slower gait speed in older diabetic adults may hallmark a decline in ability to regulate blood flow in the brain.”

Type 2 diabetes is recognized by the body’s incapacity to properly utilize insulin. The CDC notes that one out of 3 people will be diagnosed Type 2 diabetes at some point during their lifetime.

The results of this study will aid researchers in discovering a treatment to address these issues.

(Published in the journal American Academy of Neurology.)