Researchers to Study Link Between Diabetes and Memory

January 13, 2004

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Understanding the link between diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease – as well as how diabetes relates to other forms of memory loss – is the focus of a new nationwide study that will be coordinated by Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center.

“Type 2 diabetes and cognitive impairment are two conditions found in people age 60 and older,” said Jeff Williamson, M.D., who will coordinate the study. “We want to learn the best way to control diabetes so we can reduce the risk of memory decline.” People with diabetes have a greater risk of memory loss with age and at least twice the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease as people without diabetes.

The study, called ACCORD-MIND, is a sub-study of a larger project that is investigating the best way to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke in people with diabetes. ACCORD-MIND will enroll about 2,800 participants at 40 sites in the Southeast, Northeast, Minnesota, Iowa, and the West Coast. About 250 people from the Triad will participate.

It is known that the risk of cardiovascular problems is higher in people with diabetes who have poorly controlled blood sugar, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

Researchers will look at whether more stringent control of these risk factors will reduce structural changes in the brain and the rate of memory decline.

“We want to learn if there is a more favorable level of control that helps minimize diabetes-related memory loss,” said Williamson, an associate professor of geriatrics. “We may even learn more about the mechanisms of conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and stroke-related dementia.”

Some participants will also undergo brain scans using magnetic resonance imaging to learn more about structural changes that occur in the brains of people with diabetes.

The research is funded by the National Institute on Aging (NIA), in cooperation with the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. This is the first major trial to test whether changing the profile of cardiovascular risk factors reduces memory loss in older persons, according to Lenore Launer, the NIA project officer and originator of the study. The Medical Center will receive more than $2 million dollars to coordinate the study.

About 20 percent of older adults have diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is closely linked to obesity. People with Type 2 diabetes are at greater risk of cardiovascular disease, dying at rates two to four times higher than those who do not have diabetes. They also experience more nonfatal heart attacks and strokes.

The ACCORD-MIND study is based on the fact that diabetes is also linked to memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease. It is the first randomized study of long-term blood sugar control, cognitive function and structural brain changes in people with type 2 diabetes.

The larger ACCORD study will enroll about 10,000 people nationwide. The studies will last for 5 years. Volunteers with diabetes who are over age 40 are needed (participants in the MIND portion of the study must be over age 55). More information is available by calling 1-877-238-4825.


Contacts: Karen Richardson,; Shannon Koontz,; at 336-716-4587.

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