This site is intended for health professionals only

Diet impacts brain function in adults with type 2 diabetes

Adults with type 2 diabetes who eat unhealthy, high-fat meals may experience memory declines immediately afterward, but this can be offset by taking antioxidant vitamins C and E with the meal, according to new research.

Type 2 diabetes is associated with chronic oxidative stress, a major contributor to cognitive decline and Alzheimer's disease. Consuming unhealthy foods can induce this type of stress which is triggered by acute elevations of free radicals - unstable molecules that can damage tissue, including brain tissue. These destructive molecule reactions typically occur over a one-to-three hour period after food ingestion 

"Our bottom line is that consuming unhealthy meals for those with diabetes can temporarily further worsen already underlying memory problems associated with the disease," said lead author Michael Herman Chui.

"We've shown that antioxidant vitamins can minimise oxidative stress from the meal and reduce those immediate memory deficits."

Dr Carol Greenwood, senior author of the study, cautioned that relying on antioxidant vitamins at meal time is not a quick fix: "While our study looked at the pill-form of antioxidants, we would ultimately want individuals to consume healthier foods high in antioxidants, like fruits and vegetables."

The study was published in the July issue of Nutrition Research.

Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care