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[IPp] Reduced Brain Volume Found in Diabetics

Reduced Brain Volume Found in Diabetics
Sat Apr 5, 7:34 AM ETAdd Health - Reuters to My Yahoo!

 HONOLULU (Reuters Health) - Young adults with type 1 diabetes seem to have an
average brain volume smaller than their peers without diabetes, researchers
reported at the American Academy of Neurology (news - web sites) meeting here
this week.

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 Brain volume naturally diminishes with age, but the diabetics (news - web
sites) in the study -- who were mostly in their 30s -- seemed to experience
shrinkage sooner than would be expected, according to study author Dr. Richard
K.T. Chan.

 However, it's not clear if the brain differences translate into learning
problems or other mental difficulties, the researchers emphasized. They did not
test to see if the patients had any memory or learning problems compared with
their peers.

 "In our study, we found that 88.5 percent of people with diabetes had brain
volumes that were less than (the median for) the nondiabetics," said Chan, an
assistant professor of neurology at the State University of New York in Buffalo,
where he is the director of stroke services. The median is the halfway point,
with half of people having a higher brain volume and half having a lower brain

 Chan's team investigated brain volumes because prior research had suggested
that children and young adults with type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune disease that
is typically diagnosed in children or young adults, had more learning and
organization problems than their peers at school and work.

 However, it's not clear if the problems were due to the psychological and
social burdens of the disease, which requires daily injections of insulin for
survival, or to the diabetes itself.

 In the study, the researchers conducted brain scans of 26 people with type 1
diabetes and 24 people who did not have the disease. All volunteers were 18 to
50 years old, with the average age in the early to mid 30s. Everyone with
diabetes had been diagnosed before age 18, used insulin and had been living with
diabetes for at least 10 years.

 Commenting on the study, Dr. Tamara Hershey, a neuropsychologist who studies
the effects of diabetes on the brain, said it is "trying to address an important
question, using neuroimaging techniques that can be useful."

 "But I think the conclusions that you could draw from it are limited. It's
intriguing beginning data," said Hershey, who is at the Washington University
School of Medicine in St. Louis and was not involved in Chan's research.

 Chan stressed that even though these findings show that loss of brain volume is
common among young, otherwise healthy patients with type 1 diabetes, it is
unknown whether the volume loss contributes to cognitive impairment. He said the
study participants may be followed in the future to see if any such relationship
develops as they age.

 Chan said that he and his colleagues want to recruit more study subjects so
that they can collect data on 100 diabetics and 100 non-diabetics.

 The widespread use of insulin and the improvement in treatments for diabetes
have made it possible for researchers to study other effects of the disease,
Chan told Reuters Health.

 "This is the first generation of people with type 1 diabetes who have survived
to middle age and beyond," he said. "In decades past, they did not survive the
early years of their disease."

 The research was funded by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation
International and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

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