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Prospective study of type 2 diabetes and cognitive decline in women aged 70-81 years

BMJ 2004; 328 doi: (Published 04 March 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;328:548
  1. Giancarlo Logroscino (glogrosc{at}, associate professor of neuroepidemiology1,
  2. Jae Hee Kang, instructor of medicine2,
  3. Francine Grodstein, associate professor of medicine2
  1. 1 Department of Epidemiology, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA 02115, USA
  2. 2 Channing Lab, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston
  1. Correspondence to: G Logroscino
  • Accepted 27 November 2003


Objective To examine the association of type 2 diabetes with baseline cognitive function and cognitive decline over two years of follow up, focusing on women living in the community and on the effects of treatments for diabetes.

Design Nurses' health study in the United States. Two cognitive interviews were carried out by telephone during 1995-2003.

Participants 18 999 women aged 70-81 years who had been registered nurses completed the baseline interview; to date, 16 596 participants have completed follow up interviews after two years.

Main outcome measures Cognitive assessments included telephone interview of cognitive status, immediate and delayed recalls of the East Boston memory test, test of verbal fluency, delayed recall of 10 word list, and digit span backwards. Global scores were calculated by averaging the results of all tests with z scores.

Results After multivariate adjustment, women with type 2 diabetes performed worse on all cognitive tests than women without diabetes at baseline. For example, women with diabetes were at 25-35% increased odds of poor baseline score (defined as bottom 10% of the distribution) compared with women without diabetes on the telephone interview of cognitive status and the global composite score (odds ratios 1.34, 95% confidence interval 1.14 to 1.57, and 1.26, 1.06 to 1.51, respectively). Odds of poor cognition were particularly high for women who had had diabetes for a long time (1.52, 1.15 to 1.99, and 1.49, 1.11 to 2.00, respectively, for 15 years' duration). In contrast, women with diabetes who were on oral hypoglycaemic agents performed similarly to women without diabetes (1.06 and 0.99), while women not using any medication had the greatest odds of poor performance (1.71, 1.28 to 2.281, and 1.45, 1.04 to 2.02) compared with women without diabetes. There was also a modest increase in odds of poor cognition among women using insulin treatment. All findings were similar when cognitive decline was examined over time.

Conclusions Women with type 2 diabetes had increased odds of poor cognitive function and substantial cognitive decline. Use of oral hypoglycaemic therapy, however, may ameliorate risk.


  • Contributors GL and FG led the study design; GL, JHK, and FG contributed to the interpretation and the analysis of the data; JHK conducted the analysis of the data. FG was responsible for obtaining funding for the study. All authors contributed to writing the manuscript and are joint guarantors.

  • Funding Grants AG15424 and CA87969 from the National Institutes of Health. FG is partially supported by a New Scholars in Aging award from the Ellison Medical Foundation

  • Competing interests During the last five years GL has received honorariums for lectures from Pfeizer and Lilly Pharmaceutical. During the past five years FG has received honorariums or temporary consulting fees from Novo Nordisk, Schering-Plough, Novartis, Orion Pharma, and Wyeth Ayerst.

  • Ethical approval This study was approved by the Institutional Review Board of Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, MA.

  • Accepted 27 November 2003
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