12 April 2009
Diabetes could lead to
diminished brain power
According to University of Edinburgh team, severe hypoglycaemic episodes – hypos – occur when blood sugar levels drop dangerously low.
Hypoglycaemia is caused by a lack of sugar (glucose) reaching the brain, which uses it as fuel. Its symptoms include sweating, fatigue, hunger, feeling dizzy, feeling weak, a higher heart rate than usual and blurred vision.
More severe episodes can led to temporary loss of consciousness, convulsions and coma. Now, in the latest study, researchers recruited 1,066 people with type 2 diabetes aged between 60 and 75.
The study was presented at a conference of the charity Diabetes UK. To reach the conclusion, volunteers were given seven tests assessing mental abilities such as memory, logic and concentration.
The 113 people who had previously experienced severe hypos scored lower than the rest of the group. They performed poorly in tests of their general mental ability, and vocabulary.
“Either hypos lead to cognitive decline, or cognitive decline makes it more difficult for people to manage their diabetes, which in turn causes more hypos,” The BBC quoted lead researcher Dr Jackie Price, as saying.
“A third explanation could be that a third unidentified factor is causing both the hypos and the cognitive decline. We are carrying out more research to establish which explanation is the most likely,” the expert added.