That Sugar Movement


A link between memory loss, type 2 diabetes and obesity

170512_TSF_BlogHero_01Excess added sugar intake has been correlated with certain negative health outcomes.

Type 2 diabetes, obesity, and cognitive decline are a few in the lineup.

Type 2 diabetes can develop via a combination of factors; a critical one being poor diet comprised of heavily processed foods and added sugar. Lack of exercise and genetic or familial predisposition can also play a role.1

Chronically, the condition can lead to a myriad of health problems, including loss of eyesight, amputations and cognitive decline.

Being obese increases risk of developing type 2 diabetes. And for most people, consuming too much poor quality food, including an abundance of heavily refined carbohydrate rich foods and those loaded with added sugar, is a big factor in weight gain.2-3

And more recently, a decline cognitive function and memory has been associated with poor diet and high blood sugar. Alzheimer’s disease is even being dubbed the diabetes of the brain.

But little is understood about the impact on the brain of overweight in the presence of type 2 diabetes.

A group of researchers set out to uncover the connection.

The study
Researchers at Ewha University Brain Institute in Seoul, South Korea took 150 people, between ages of 30-60 years and not on insulin medication, and split them evenly into 3 groups:

  • Overweight people with type 2 diabetes
  • Healthy weight people with type 2 diabetes
  • Healthy weight people without type 2 diabetes.4

The aim? To investigate whether weight influenced cognition and brain structure in those with early stage type 2 diabetes.

“Obesity leads to increased risk of type 2 diabetes, metabolic dysfunction and is also associated with brain alterations independently,” said study author Dr. In Kyoon Lyoo.

This study found the conditions are connected.

Researchers found that in people with type 2 diabetes “…cortical thickness was decreased in several regions of the brains. Further thinning of the temporal lobes found in overweight/obese individuals with type 2 diabetes suggests that these regions are specifically vulnerable to combined effects of obesity and type 2 diabetes.”

Specifically, those with type 2 diabetes had thinning of the temporal, prefrontoparietal, motor and occipital cortices of the brains; with further thinning of the temporal and motor cortices in the overweight group with type 2 diabetes when compared with those with the condition but a healthy weight.

The researchers concluded that in light of such findings, it is important to prevent and manage type 2 diabetes especially when combined with increased weight “to preserve their brain structure and cognitive function.”

Fortunately, what we choose to eat can help prevent or treat type 2 diabetes, weight, and cognitive decline.

It begins with choosing real food over heavily processed and packaged foods, including those loaded with added sugar.

Sure, we understand sipping soft drink, licking lollipops and chomping milk chocolate are going to up the overall added sugar intake. But what about the sugar we are unaware we are eating?

As That Sugar Film describes, added sugars hide in many foods, often those that are seemingly healthy. So, intake can easily rise and exceed the recommended limit of 6 teaspoons (25g) per day. Eat too much, and health suffers.

So what to do? Focus on eating real food – including veg, fruit, legumes and healthy fats found in fish, nuts, seeds and olive oil – and check out our ideas on how to identify added versus naturally occurring sugars, and tips to limit intake, to move toward a happier healthier you.

By Angela Johnson (BHSc Nut. Med.)



  1. Diabetes Australia, Type 2 Diabetes, viewed 3 May 2017, <>
  2. Kuhnle, GC, Tasevska, N, Lentjes, MH, Griffin, JL, Sims, MA, Richardson, L, Aspinall, SM, Mulligan, AA, Luben, RN, & Khaw, K 2015, ‘Association between sucrose intake and risk of overweight and obesity in a prospective sub-cohort of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer in Norfolk (EPIC-Norfolk)’, Public Health Nutrition, vol. 18, no. 15, pp. 2815-2824.
  3. Te Morenga, L, Mallard, S, & Mann, J 2012, ‘Dietary sugars and body weight: systematic review and meta-analyses of randomised controlled trials and cohort studies’, BMJ (Clinical Research Ed.), vol. 346, p. e7492.
  4. Yoon, S et al. 2017, ‘Brain changes in overweight/obese and normal-weight adults with type 2 diabetes mellitus’, Diabetologia, pp. 1-11.
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