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Dement Geriatr Cogn Disord. 2010;29(4):356-62. doi: 10.1159/000296071. Epub 2010 Apr 24.

Metabolic syndrome is associated with learning and recall impairment in middle age.

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Brain, Obesity and Diabetes Laboratory, New York University School of Medicine, New York, NY 10016, USA. antonio.convit @



To determine whether middle-aged individuals with metabolic syndrome, both with and without type 2 diabetes, exhibit cognitive impairments, and to determine the role of each metabolic syndrome component in those associations.


143 participants were drawn from ongoing studies of normal aging. Metabolic syndrome was diagnosed in 73 participants (age: 60.4 +/- 8.4 years), who were contrasted with 70 age- and education-matched controls.


Metabolic syndrome was associated with reductions in recall (p = 0.006), lower overall intellectual functioning (p = 0.013), and nearly significant reductions in learning (p = 0.066) and executive functioning (p = 0.050). These effects were only marginally attenuated when controlling for type 2 diabetes diagnosis. Of the 5 components of the metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance was the only significant predictor of variance in learning and recall. In addition, the number of metabolic syndrome criteria met was inversely associated with cognitive performance.


These results indicate that impairments in cognitive functioning associated with metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes may begin as early as middle age and are primarily due to insulin resistance. These results demonstrate the importance of screening at-risk adults for insulin resistance in order to initiate lifestyle modifications to reverse or prevent these cognitive changes.

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