Type 1 Diabetes and decreased brain function


Wish things like this wouldn’t keep appearing in my inbox.

I definitely feel less sharp mentally then I did 15 years ago, despite HbA1c being 6mmol or below for many of those!

Hoping it’s just stress ha.

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I think almost everyone feels less sharp mentally than they did 15 years ago but these findings certainly remind us that even well controlled diabetes can take a heavy toll. Let’s hope that the sample of T1s living into their 80s and even 90s is large enough in the future so that follow-up studies can be done.



I was diagnosed in 1945, when I was 6. I had terrible highs, and many seizures. There was no way of testing my blood sugar until the 1980s. I attended college for 6 years, and taught mathematics in college for many years. How could I have accomplished all that if I had decreased brain function? Now I have been type 1 for 69 years, and will be a speaker at a type 1 conference in July. I think these articles on brain damage in type 1 diabetics is grossly overdone.


I worry about cognitive decline as I age. I’m 61 now and have lived with T1D for 31 years. In some ways I feel as sharp as ever but I do noticed more “forgetting where I put my keys” moments. But I notice that many people my age also make the same observation.

Cognitive decline caused by hyperglycemia is just one more motivation to keep my BGs on a short leash. If or when I lose my cognitive ability to manage the sophisticated insulin dosing I now use, I think my health will decline as if on a slippery slope.

I’m hoping that the artificial pancreas gains will put in place quality automatic insulin dosing system before or if I ever need it. My faith in the current medical system to competently take over my insulin dosing is zero!


Hi Buckley
From what I understand, inflammation caused by autoimmune attacks does have effect the brain. Gut permeability aka leaky gut also causes inflammation of the brain. The good news is it can be reversed with diet and supplements. Dr. David Perlmutter, a neurologist has a couple of books out now on how to reclaim our cognitive and neurological function. He has interviews on youtube as well so you can get a sense of him before investing $$ in his books. Dr. Amy Myers specializes in autoimmune conditions and also speaks to reclaiming brain resiliency and function.

Hope this helps,

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I agree Ahnalira, and based on talking with my mom’s neurologist after her coma, the complications associated with diabetes takes its toll on the brain as well such as:

  1. Dialysis due to long-term hypertension/diabetes (microvascular system)
  2. Osteoarthritis (inflammation)
  3. Joint replacement surgeries related to osteoarthritis
  4. Open Bypass surgery (due to 2 heart attacks–directly related to CAD -> hypertension/diabetes)

I always remember my maternal grandfather (T1 diabetic) saying that diabetes targets the weakest part of your body. In the case of the brain, with hypoglycemia it is starved of glucose. The brain is the only organ that functions only on glucose and nothing else (i.e., carbs, proteins, fats) (quote from the neurologist). In the case of hyperglycemia the brain is saturated/bathe in glucose and needs insulin.

Secondly, how long a person is in a coma or diabetic event (seconds/minutes count) and how much starvation/drowning the brain suffers is directly proportion to the damage incurred. It’s like saving a drowning person in the ocean–and trying to revive that person, except its their consciousness you are trying to reawaken.

Thirdly, the age of the person when the event(s) occurred. If the person is younger, they have a greater change of bouncing back and the brain is more elastic in repairing itself. If the person is older when the event(s) occur it will be much harder for the person to recover and for the brain to repair itself.

Lastly, in my opinion, if a person does the “seesaw” daily—hypo/hyper events throughout the day–lows in the 20s-30s early mornings and rebounding to the 300s-400s in the afternoons daily it will take a toll on the body and mind–personality and cognitive abilities.

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Hi Richard
have not been on the forum for a couple of years, however I did obtain your book a while back.which was full of insight and inspiration,.
Eighth year as T1 here. The mind is stronger, many lessons have been learnt, grow organic food which I am sure helps in good health maintenance.
All the best to you, keep inspiring.
Robert from Australia


Hello Robert, it is nice hearing from you. Organic food is a great idea!

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I have been type1 for 37 years, and I actually think faster, and more accurately, I love looking at what people say, and love doing research on all kind of things. back then (I know I was a 13 year old kid) and I was good, but heck, I was a kid. (hahaha)