July 7, 2020

How Diabetes and Obesity Affect the Brain

In a Michigan Medicine Blog, Dr. Brian Callaghan discusses his clinical research of diabetes and obesity, which has demonstrated that, in addition to peripheral nerve damage, can also cause cognitive dysfunction, affecting thinking, reasoning and memory.

Dr. Brian Callaghan

With more than 30 million Americans diagnosed with diabetes, and another 87 million diagnosed with obesity, both conditions have become national epidemics.

The two diseases cause a number of complications, including neuropathy, which causes damage to the peripheral nerves. Neuropathy is characterized by numbness or tingling and can sometimes be accompanied by pain.

Brian Callaghan, M.D., the Fovette E. Dush associate professor of neurology, has sounded an alarm through his recent clinical research, which has demonstrated that, in addition to peripheral nerve damage, diabetes and obesity can also cause cognitive dysfunction, affecting thinking, reasoning or memory.

Here, Callaghan discusses his latest work and ways to identify and treat the condition:

How are obesity, prediabetes and diabetes related?

Obesity, prediabetes and diabetes tend to cluster together in people. Those that are obese are more likely to have diabetes and vice versa. However, there are exceptions, and some people who are diabetic are not obese, and the reverse. Studying these exceptions helps us tease out how diabetes and obesity affect the body individually. We found that diabetes and obesity both injure the peripheral and central nerves, but that obesity does not significantly affect other diabetic complications like retinopathy or nephropathy.

Read the complete Q & A with Dr. Callaghan