Super-Tight Blood Sugar Control May Not Ease Mental
Decline in Diabetics09/28/11
TUESDAY, Sept. 27 (HealthDay News) -- For people with type 2
diabetes, intense treatment doesn't slow decline in thinking
skills, a new study found. Super-strict blood sugar control
actually appeared to increase study participants' risk of death,
the researchers found.
People older than 70 with type 2 diabetes are twice as likely to
suffer mental impairment as those without diabetes, researchers
say. Intensively controlling blood sugar has been shown to reduce
the odds of diabetes complications, such as vision, kidney and
circulation problems, so it seemed likely that it might also slow
any cognitive decline related to the condition.
"At the end of the day, there was no difference in cognitive function between people who received the intensive strategy versus the standard strategy," said lead researcher Lenore J. Launer, at the Laboratory of Epidemiology, Demography and Biometry at the U.S. National Institute on Aging.
Launer said they went into the study assuming intensive lowering
of blood sugar would improve cognitive function. Since there were
no non-diabetics in the study for comparison purposes, it is still
possible that routine control of blood sugar does confer a benefit
on cognitive function, she said.
"Patients should follow standard therapy, because there is no additional benefit to following a more intensive strategy," she advised.
It is important for people with type 2 diabetes to keep their
blood sugar under control to reduce the likelihood of long-term
complications. While the study didn't confirm cognitive advantages,
many other health benefits are associated with well-controlled
blood sugar, Launer said.
The study was published in the Sept. 27 online edition of
The Lancet Neurology.
Launer's group looked at a subset of patients who took part in
the Action to Control Cardiovascular Risk in Diabetes (ACCORD)
Researchers assigned 2,977 with type 2 diabetes at high risk for
heart disease to intensive blood-sugar lowering or current
treatment. The participants were 55 to 80 years old. Intensive
blood sugar lowering meant reducing blood sugar to less than 6
percent as measured by an A1c test. The current standard is to
maintain blood sugar at between 7 and 7.5 percent.
Some patients (614) also had an MRI to measure brain volume and
took cognitive ability tests at the beginning and end of the
After about 39 months, no difference in cognitive ability
existed between the groups, the researchers found. However,
patients in the intensive care group had a significantly larger
brain volume than patients in the standard treatment group.
But, the larger brain volume didn't translate to better thinking
The part of the ACCORD trial involving intensive lowering of
blood sugar was halted earlier than planned. An increased risk of
death, the finding of no overall benefit on cardiovascular disease,
problems caused by too-low blood sugar and weight gain were all
factors in stopping.
Dr. Geert Jan Biessels, a neurologist at the Rudolf Magnus
Institute of Neuroscience at the University Medical Center in
Utrecht, the Netherlands, wrote a journal editorial accompanying
the study. He said that "dementia is the most important cognitive
complication of diabetes. The present study assessed the effects of
treatment on average cognitive functioning across the whole study
population. It is uncertain, however, if average cognitive
functioning is an adequate proxy for dementia."
On average, cognition was not improved, he said. "However, the
absence of an effect of treatment on mean cognitive functioning
cannot yet be regarded as proof that the treatment may not delay
dementia," he said. "But, at present the results do not support
specific treatments to prevent cognitive decline in diabetes."
Another expert, Dr. Jay Skyler, a professor of medicine at the
Diabetes Research Institute of the University of Miami Miller
School of Medicine, said that "the study does not answer the
question as to whether among diabetics cognitive dysfunction might
be more accelerated than in the general population and whether
treatment might control that."
For more information on diabetes, visit the
U.S. National Library of Medicine.
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