A study shows controlling blood sugar can improve the ability to think, learn and remember among people with type 2 diabetes who are overweight. But losing weight, especially for people who were obese, and increasing physical activity produced mixed results.
Owen Carmichael, Ph.D., Professor and Director, Biomedical Imaging at Pennington Biomedical Research Center said, “It’s important to properly control your blood sugar to avoid adverse effects on your brain by the diabetes.”
“Don’t think you can simply let yourself get to the obese range. Lose lose few calories, and everything in the brain will be fine. The brain might have already turned a corner that it can’t turn back from,” added Carmichael.
The research examined 1,100 participants in the Look AHEAD (Action for Health In Diabetes) study. In the study, one group of participants was invited to three sessions each year that focused on diet, physical activity, and social support.
The other group was asked to change their diet and physical activity through a program designed to help them lose more than 7 per cent of their body weight in a year and maintain that weight loss.
Several Cognitive tests were conducted like tests of thinking, learning, and remembering; were given to participants between 8 to 13 years after they started the study.
The research team found people with greater improvements in blood sugar levels, physical activity and weight loss would have better cognitive test scores. This hypothesis proved partially true. Reducing your blood sugar levels did improve test scores. But losing more weight and exercising more did not always raise cognitive test scores.
According to Dr. Carmichael, every little improvement in blood sugar control was associated with a little better cognition. Therefore, lowering your blood sugar from the diabetes range to prediabetes has helped as much as dropping from prediabetes levels to the healthy range. “More weight loss was either better or worse depending on the mental skill involved”, Dr. Carmichael said.
It was reported that people who lost more weight improved their executive function skills:
- Short-term memory
- Impulse control
- Increased attention
- The ability to switch between tasks
But it was seen their verbal learning and overall memory declined with time.
“The results were worse for people who had obesity at the beginning of the study. That’s a ‘too little, too late’ type of message,” he said. People with diabetes who let their obesity go too far, for too long, may be past the point of no return, cognition-wise.
Increasing physical activity also generated more benefits for people who were overweight compared to those with obesity, the study showed. Finding a way to offset the health effects of type 2 diabetes is vital.