A disturbing new study raises concerns about the impact of type-2 diabetes on learning and cognition. Dr. Antonio Convit, of NYU Langone Medical Center and his colleagues looked at two groups of obese teenagers -- 18 with type 2 diabetes and 18 who, although also obese, did not show any signs of the disease. The researchers found that the diabetic teens had statistically significant lower scores in tests of attention, memory, and planning. Of interest, the two groups of teens were matched in terms of socio-economic status, sex, grade, and ethnicity.
Scientists have long known that some adults with diabetes have cognitive changes, but have not been certain if these are related to their diabetic condition alone or if they are part of the long term consequences of having diabetes, including heart disease that can impair circulation to the brain. Since the teens Convit and his colleagues studied did not have the long term consequences of diabetes, the research team believes that the very existence of type 2 diabetes can impact brain circulation.
The good news is that Convit points out that it is not clear that the brain changes he and his colleagues observed are significant or permanent and he notes that exercise can go a long way to improve the insulin resistance that leads to type 2 diabetes. Furthermore, the resilience of younger brains may allow individuals whose brains have been impacted by type 2 diabetes to improve their function over time. If ever there was a reason to get your kids to put down the chips and get off the couch, this may be it!
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