Glycemic Status and Brain Injury in Older Individuals

The Age Gene/Environment Susceptibility–Reykjavik Study

  1. Jane S. Saczynski, PHD1,2,
  2. Sigurdur Siggurdsson, MSC3,
  3. Palmi V. Jonsson, MD3,4,
  4. Gudny Eiriksdottir, MSC3,
  5. Elin Olafsdottir, MD3,
  6. Olafur Kjartansson, MD3,4,
  7. Tamara B. Harris, MD2,
  8. Mark A. van Buchem, MD5,
  9. Vilmundur Gudnason, MD3,4 and
  10. Lenore J. Launer, PHD2
  1. 1Division of Geriatric Medicine and Meyers Primary Care Institute, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, Massachusetts;
  2. 2Intramural Research Program, Laboratory of Epidemiology, Demography and Biometry, National Institute on Aging, Bethesda, Maryland;
  3. 3Icelandic Heart Association, Kopavogur, Iceland;
  4. 4Department of Medicine, University of Iceland, Reykjavik, Iceland;
  5. 5Department of Radiology, Leiden University Medical Center, Leiden, the Netherlands.
  1. Corresponding author: Jane S. Saczynski, jane.saczynski{at}


OBJECTIVE To examine the association of glycemic status to magnetic resonance imaging indicators of brain pathological changes.

RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS This was a cross-sectional, population-based study of 4,415 men and women without dementia (mean age 76 years) participating in the Age Gene/Environment Susceptibility–Reykjavik Study. Glycemic status groups included the following: type 2 diabetes (self-report of diabetes, use of diabetes medications, or fasting blood glucose ≥7.0 mmol/l [11.1%]); impaired fasting glucose (IFG) (fasting blood glucose 5.6–6.9 mmol/l [36.2%]); and normoglycemic (52.7%). Outcomes were total brain volume, white and gray matter volume, white matter lesion (WML) volume, and presence of cerebral infarcts.

RESULTS After adjustment for demographic and cardiovascular risk factors, participants with type 2 diabetes had significantly lower total brain volume (72.2 vs. 71.5%; P < 0.001) and lower gray and white matter volumes (45.1 vs. 44.9%, P < 0.01 and 25.7 vs. 25.3%, P < 0.001, respectively) and were more likely to have single (odds ratio 1.45 [95% CI 1.14–1.85]) or multiple (2.27 [1.60–3.23]) cerebral infarcts compared with normoglycemic participants. Longer duration of type 2 diabetes was associated with lower total brain volume and gray and white matter volume, higher WML volume (all Ptrend < 0.05), and a greater likelihood of single and multiple cerebral infarcts (all Ptrend < 0.01).

CONCLUSIONS Type 2 diabetic participants have more pronounced brain atrophy and are more likely to have cerebral infarcts. Duration of type 2 diabetes is associated with brain changes, suggesting that type 2 diabetes has a cumulative effect on the brain.


  • The costs of publication of this article were defrayed in part by the payment of page charges. This article must therefore be hereby marked “advertisement” in accordance with 18 U.S.C. Section 1734 solely to indicate this fact.

    • Received December 23, 2008.
    • Accepted June 3, 2009.
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  1. Diabetes Care vol. 32 no. 9 1608-1613
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