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Diabetes May Alter Obese Adolescents' Brain Structure

Cognitive functioning worse in this group than in obese adolescents without diabetes

THURSDAY, Aug. 5 (HealthDay News) -- Obese adolescents with type 2 diabetes have decreased cognitive functioning and subtle brain abnormalities compared to obese adolescents without diabetes, according to research published online July 29 in Diabetologia.

Po Lai Yau, of the New York University School of Medicine in New York City, and colleagues conducted a study of obese adolescents with type 2 diabetes to evaluate whether diabetes without other comorbidities adversely affects brain function before clinically significant vascular disease develops. Eighteen obese adolescents with type 2 diabetes were enrolled in the study and compared with 18 obese adolescents from the same ethnic and socioeconomic groups but without diabetes. Each participant underwent cognitive testing and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

The researchers found that adolescents with diabetes performed significantly worse than those without diabetes in estimated intellectual functioning, verbal memory, and psychomotor efficiency, with statistical trends seen for poorer performance in executive functioning, reading, and spelling. MRI-based automated brain structural analyses revealed decreases in white matter volume, increases in the cerebrospinal fluid space, and decreased white and grey matter microstructural integrity in the brains of the adolescents with diabetes. There were no significant reductions noted in gray matter volume. The authors concluded that the brain and cognitive findings may be a result of metabolic abnormalities and subtle vascular changes in the diabetes group.

"Given that some of our obese control participants are likely to have subtle levels of insulin resistance, it is possible that the group differences we uncovered would be even larger relative to lean adolescents. It will be essential to ascertain whether these brain abnormalities are reversible with improvements in diabetic control," the authors write.

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