Type 2 diabetes patients who fail to prevent dangerously-low blood sugar levels can suffer memory problems and reduced brain power over the long-term, according to a U.K. study that included 1,066 patients, ages 60 to 75.
The volunteers completed a number of tests designed to assess mental abilities such as concentration, memory and logic. The 113 participants who'd previously experienced severe hypoglycemic episodes (hypos) had the lowest scores, BBC News reported.
"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," said lead researcher Dr. Jackie Price of the University of Edinburgh. "A third explanation could be that a third unidentified factor is causing both the hypos and the cognitive decline."
The study was presented at the Diabetes UK conference in Glasgow, Scotland.
"This study reinforces previous evidence which suggests that poorly controlled diabetes affects the functioning of the brain," Dr. Iain Frame, director of research at Diabetes UK, told BBC News. "We already know that type 2 diabetes increases the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, which is a type of dementia, and this research adds another piece to a very complex jigsaw puzzle."