Evidence links diabetes mellitus to cognitive impairment and increased risk of Alzheimer's disease (AD) and
suggests that insulin therapy improves cognition. With an increasing percentage of the US elderly population at high risk
for diabetes and AD, the evidence of an association between diabetes and poor cognition in non-demented elderly may
have implications for diagnosis, prevention and treatment of cognitive decline including AD.
In our study, we hypothesized that diabetic elders with normal cognition would demonstrate poorer cognitive outcomes
than non-diabetic elders and that diabetic elders receiving diabetes treatment would demonstrate better outcomes than
those not receiving treatment.
Data were evaluated from the National Alzheimer’s Coordinating Center’s Uniform Data Set (UDS). The UDS consists of
clinical and neuropsychological assessments of a sample of elderly research subjects recruited from thirty-one Alzheimer’s
Disease Centers nationwide. The UDS provides a unique opportunity to study cognition in a nationally recruited
sample with structured neuropsychological tests.
We examined the impact of diabetes and diabetes treatment on cognitive measures in 3421 elderly research subjects from
2005-2007 with normal cognition. We performed linear regression analyses to compare cognitive scores between diabetic
subjects and non-diabetic subjects. Diabetic subjects had lower scores than non-diabetic subjects including attention, psychomotor
function and executive function, but no differences in memory or semantic memory language. There was no association
between diabetes treatment and cognitive scores.
These subtle but significant cognitive deficits in diabetic subjects compared to non-diabetic subjects may contribute to difficulty
with compliance with complex diabetes medication regimens. A specific role of diabetes as a risk for cognitive impairment
will require longitudinal study.