ESSEN, Germany -- September 3, 2014 -- In a large population-based study of randomly selected participants in Germany, researchers found that mild cognitive impairment (MCI) occurred twice as often in individuals diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

Interestingly, this strong association was only observed in participants aged 50 to 65 years, whereas in older participants (66-80 years) the association vanished.

The findings appear in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

The Heinz Nixdorf Recall (Risk Factors, Evaluation of Coronary Calcium and Lifestyle) study is an observational, population-based, prospective study that examined 4,814 participants (50% men) between 2000 and 2003 in the metropolitan Ruhr area in Germany. After 5 years a second examination was conducted with 90% of the participants taking part.

For the current analysis, 560 participants diagnosed with MCI were compared with 1,376 cognitively normal participants. Of participants with MCI, 289 had amnestic MCI and 271 had non-amnestic MCI.

Type 2 diabetes was strongly associated with MCI as well as MCI subtypes, but only in the middle-aged group. Examination of differences by gender revealed a stronger association of diabetes with amnestic MCI in middle-aged women and by contrast a stronger association with non-amnestic MCI in middle-aged men.

The results suggest that middle-aged individuals with type 2 diabetes are particularly vulnerable to MCI, with gender specific effects on subtypes of MCI. This underlines the importance of high quality treatment of diabetes especially in middle age, not only because of cardiovascular damage, but also because it might help to prevent or delay cognitive decline.