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Hypos linked to reduced brain function

A study has shown that experiencing severe hypos can lower general cognitive ability and vocabulary

A study that aimed to establish the level of brain function of 1,066 people with Type II diabetes aged between 60 and 75 years of age, showed that the 113 people who had previously experienced severe hypos (hyperglycaemic episodes where blood glucose levels drop dangerously low) scored lower than the rest of the group on general cognitive ability and vocabulary. This was after results took into account the participants' age, gender and pre-morbid cognitive ability, ie the cognitive ability that does not naturally decline with age.

According to Dr Jackie Price from the University of Edinburgh who led the research, “These findings suggest that exposure to severe hyperglycaemia is associated with cognitive decline in people with Type II diabetes aged between 60 and 75 years. This can mean either that hypos lead to cognitive decline, or that cognitive decline makes it more difficult for people to manage their diabetes, which in turn causes more hypos. 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.”

"We already know that Type II 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. However more research is needed before we can come to any firm conclusions," Dr Iain Frame, Director of Research at Diabetes UK, said.

There are 2.5 million people with diabetes in the UK and up to 500,000 who have Type II diabetes but do not know it. It is predicted that by 2025 there will be up to four million people with diabetes in the UK. The number of people with dementia in the UK is also forecast to double within a generation from 700,00 to 1.4 million people.

12th March 2009

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