Dementia and Comorbid Diabetes and Depression

Dementia is linked to comorbid diabetes and psychiatric conditions like depression, according to research from University College London.

Patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) are at an increased risk for developing dementia if they have comorbid diabetes or psychiatric symptoms, according to research published in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

Researchers from University College London in the United Kingdom conducted a meta analysis which included more than 15,000 patients diagnosed with MCI from 62 studies. MCI affects patients between normal aging and dementia, when a person’s mind functions less well than for a person their age. About one in 5 patients aged 65 years or older are affected by MCI, and nearly half of people with MCI go on to develop dementia within 3 years compared to just 3 percent of the general population.

The researchers found that 65 percent of MCI patients with diabetes were more likely to progress to dementia, while patients with psychiatric symptoms, like depression, were more than twice as likely to develop dementia.

“There are strong links between mental and physical health, so keeping your body healthy can also help to keep your brain working properly,” explained lead author Claudia Cooper, MSc in a press release. “Lifestyle changes to improve diet and mood might help people with MCI to avoid dementia, and bring many other health benefits. This doesn't necessarily mean that addressing diabetes, psychiatric symptoms and diet will reduce an individual’s risk, but our review provides the best evidence to date about what might help.”

Current guidelines from the Alzheimer’s Society charity recommend that people remain socially and physically active in order to prevent dementia. Another tip is to eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables, but low in meat and saturated fats — one example of this diet is the Mediterranean diet.

“This impressive systematic review and meta analysis from The Faculty of Brain Science’s Division of Psychiatry underlines 2 important messages,” continued Alan Thompson, Dean of the UCL Facultty of Brain Sciences. “Firstly, he impact of medical and psychiatric comorbidities in individuals with mild cognitive impairment, and secondly, the importance and therapeutic potential of early intervention in the prevention of dementia. Confirming these findings and incorporating appropriate preventative strategies could play an important part in lessening the ever-increasing societal burden of dementia in our ageing population.”

The authors continued that randomized controls are needed in the future. Additionally, even though some damage is already done when it comes to MCI patients, these results provide a solid foundation about what it makes sense to target in order to reduce the chance of dementia in these patients.