Effects of Type 2 Diabetes on 12-Year Cognitive Change

Results from the Maastricht Aging Study

  1. Martin P.J. van Boxtel, MD, PHD1
  1. 1Department of Psychiatry and Neuropsychology, School for Mental Health and Neuroscience, Maastricht University, Maastricht, the Netherlands
  2. 2Department of Internal Medicine, Cardiovascular Research Institute Maastricht, Maastricht University Medical Center, Maastricht, the Netherlands
  1. Corresponding author: Peggy J. J. Spauwen, peggy.spauwen{at}


OBJECTIVE To examine the effects of baseline and incident diabetes on change in cognitive function over 12 years.

RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS A sample of 1,290 individuals aged ≥40 years at baseline, participating in the Maastricht Aging Study, were cognitively tested at baseline, after 6 years, and after 12 years. Of these, 68 participants had type 2 diabetes at baseline, and 54 and 57 had incident diabetes at the 6- and 12-year follow-up, respectively. Changes in performance on tests of information-processing speed, executive function, and verbal memory from baseline to 6- and 12-year follow-up were compared between groups using linear mixed models. Effects of diabetes on cognitive decline were adjusted for demographic variables, history of smoking, alcohol intake, and comorbid conditions, including hypertension, cardiovascular disease, BMI, and depression.

RESULTS Participants with baseline diabetes showed larger decline in information-processing speed (estimate −7.64; P < 0.01), executive function (21.82; P < 0.01), and delayed word recall (−1.35; P < 0.05) over the 12-year follow-up compared with control subjects. No significant difference in decline was observed for immediate word recall. Compared with control subjects, participants with incident diabetes showed subtle early decline in information-processing speed only. Interestingly, they did not show larger decline in any other cognitive domain.

CONCLUSIONS Individuals with baseline type 2 diabetes show accelerated cognitive decline, particularly in information-processing speed and executive function, compared with individuals without diabetes. In incident diabetes, decline in speed becomes detectable first, and cognitive decline seems to increase with increasing exposure time.

  • Received April 19, 2012.
  • Accepted November 14, 2012.

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