Brain and White Matter Hyperintensity Volumes After 10 Years of Random Assignment to Lifestyle Intervention

Diabetes Care. 2016 May;39(5):764-71. doi: 10.2337/dc15-2230. Epub 2016 Mar 29.


Objective: Type 2 diabetes increases the accumulation of brain white matter hyperintensities and loss of brain tissue. Behavioral interventions to promote weight loss through dietary changes and increased physical activity may delay these adverse consequences. We assessed whether participation in a successful 10-year lifestyle intervention was associated with better profiles of brain structure.

Research design and methods: At enrollment in the Action for Health in Diabetes clinical trial, participants had type 2 diabetes, were overweight or obese, and were aged 45-76 years. They were randomly assigned to receive 10 years of lifestyle intervention, which included group and individual counseling, or to a control group receiving diabetes support and education through group sessions on diet, physical activity, and social support. Following this intervention, 319 participants from three sites underwent standardized structural brain magnetic resonance imaging and tests of cognitive function 10-12 years after randomization.

Results: Total brain and hippocampus volumes were similar between intervention groups. The mean (SE) white matter hyperintensity volume was 28% lower among lifestyle intervention participants compared with those receiving diabetes support and education: 1.59 (1.11) vs. 2.21 (1.11) cc (P = 0.02). The mean ventricle volume was 9% lower: 28.93 (1.03) vs. 31.72 (1.03) cc (P = 0.04). Assignment to lifestyle intervention was not associated with consistent differences in cognitive function compared with diabetes support and education.

Conclusions: Long-term weight loss intervention may reduce the adverse impact of diabetes on brain structure. Determining whether this eventually delays cognitive decline and impairment requires further research.

Trial registration: NCT00017953.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / complications
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / diagnosis
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / pathology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / therapy*
  • Diet, Reducing
  • Directive Counseling
  • Exercise
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Life Style*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / complications
  • Obesity / diagnosis
  • Obesity / pathology
  • Organ Size
  • Overweight / complications
  • Overweight / diagnosis
  • Overweight / pathology
  • Weight Reduction Programs / methods*
  • White Matter / diagnostic imaging
  • White Matter / pathology*

Associated data