Both obesity and diabetes cause a clear reduction in brain size without additional contributing factors. The frontal lobes – the CEO of the brain; the hippocampus, so important to memory and mood; the cingulated gyrus, important in adaptability to new situations, are especially vulnerable. A BMI of 30 or higher has been linked with a decline in the executive function such as focusing, planning, monitoring, energizing, cause-to-effect reasoning, and self-control. Unfortunately, this brain atrophy can begin in adolescent years if the teenager has both obesity and type 2 diabetes. Two caveats here: Even for individuals who do not have diabetes or prediabetes, those with higher normal blood sugar levels are more susceptible to memory problems. Daily exercise may reverse some brain shrinkage. The good news is that lifestyle programs (such as the one Wildwood Lifestyle Center conducts) can help to reverse type 2 diabetes while promoting optimal brain health.
Hannah Bruehl, et al., Obese Adolescents with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus Have Hippocampal and Frontal Lobe Volume Reductions, Neurosci Med., 2011, March 1:2(1):34-42.
Kerti, L., et al, Higher glucose levels associated with lower memory and reduced hippocampal microstructure. Neurology, October 2013.
Van Elderson SG. Progression of brain atrophy and cognitive decline in diabetes mellitus : a 3 year follow-up. Neurology. 2010 Sept 14:75(11) 997-1002.
Reviewed by P.S. on Sept. 6, 2017