(CBS) People with diabetes are known to be at increased risk for dementia, and scientists were hopeful that a full-fledged assault on blood sugar might stave off diabetes-related mental decline. But no such luck.
New research suggests "intensive" blood glucose control won't do anything to stop the cognitive decline that accompanies diabetes.
"We know that people with type 2 diabetes have a much higher risk of dementia and memory loss than people without diabetes," study co-author Dr. Jeff D. Williamson, chief of geriatrics and gerontology at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C., said in a written statement. "Does the added cost and effort to control blood sugar result in a slowed rate of memory loss? After conducting this study, there remains no evidence that it does."
For the study - published in the September 27 issue of The Lancet - researchers recruited 3,000 diabetics between the ages of 55 and 80, and assigned them to either an "intensive" program aimed at lowering their gluclose (A1c) levels below 6 percentor a "standard" program that attempted to keep glucose levels between 7 and 7.9 percent.
People without diabetes typically have blood glucose levels between 4 and 6 percent, according to WebMD.
After 40 months, researchers tested the participant's cognitive functionand saw no difference in decline between the groups. The study did find, however, that intensive blood sugar control prevented brain shrinkage. "What that means for the long term preservation of cognitive function of these patients, we're still trying to figure out," Williamson said in the statement.
So what should diabetics do in light of the rather depressing new study?
"Patients should follow standard therapy, because there is no additional benefit to following a more intensive strategy," lead study author Dr. Lenore J. Launder, chief of neuroepidemiology for the National Institute on Aging, told HealthDay. Diabetics shouldn't spend all their money, time, and energy trying to drive their blood sugars down below "standard" goals, the authors said, but should focus their attention on trying to improve their overall health by eating right and exercising.
More than 25 million Americans have diabetes. Earlier this month, a study in Neurology found diabetics were twice as likely as non-diabetics to develop dementia,reported.
The Alzheimer's Association has more on Alzheimer's and type 2 diabetes.