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Age (Dordr). 2015 Aug;37(4):9802. doi: 10.1007/s11357-015-9802-0. Epub 2015 Jul 17.

Parameters of glucose metabolism and the aging brain: a magnetization transfer imaging study of brain macro- and micro-structure in older adults without diabetes.

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Department of Gerontology and Geriatrics, Leiden University Medical Centre, Leiden, the Netherlands,


Given the concurrent, escalating epidemic of diabetes mellitus and neurodegenerative diseases, two age-related disorders, we aimed to understand the relation between parameters of glucose metabolism and indices of pathology in the aging brain. From the Leiden Longevity Study, 132 participants (mean age 66 years) underwent a 2-h oral glucose tolerance test to assess glucose tolerance (fasted and area under the curve (AUC) glucose), insulin sensitivity (fasted and AUC insulin and homeostatic model assessment of insulin sensitivity (HOMA-IS)) and insulin secretion (insulinogenic index). 3-T brain MRI was used to detect macro-structural damage (atrophy, white matter hyper-intensities, infarcts and/or micro-bleeds) and magnetization transfer imaging (MTI) to detect loss of micro-structural homogeneity that remains otherwise invisible on conventional MRI. Macro-structurally, higher fasted glucose was significantly associated with white matter atrophy (P = 0.028). Micro-structurally, decreased magnetization transfer ratio (MTR) peak height in gray matter was associated with higher fasted insulin (P = 0.010), AUCinsulin (P = 0.001), insulinogenic index (P = 0.008) and lower HOMA-IS index (P < 0.001). Similar significant associations were found for white matter. Thus, while higher glucose was associated with macro-structural damage, impaired insulin action was associated more strongly with reduced micro-structural brain parenchymal homogeneity. These findings offer some insight into the association between different parameters of glucose metabolism (impairment of which is characteristic of diabetes mellitus) and brain aging.

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