Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor and Diabetes

Int J Mol Sci. 2020 Jan 28;21(3):841. doi: 10.3390/ijms21030841.


Diabetes and its chronic complications still represent a great clinical problem, despite improvements made in the diagnosis and treatment of the disease. People with diabetes have a much higher risk of impaired brain function and psychiatric disorders. Neurotrophins are factors that protect neuronal tissue and improve the function of the central nervous system, and among them is brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). The level and function of BDNF in diabetes seems to be disturbed by and connected with the presence of insulin resistance. On the other hand, there is evidence for the highly beneficial impact of physical activity on brain function and BDNF level. However, it is not clear if this protective phenomenon works in the presence of diabetes. In this review, we summarize the current available research on this topic and find that the results of published studies are ambiguous.

Keywords: brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF); diabetes mellitus; insulin resistance; neuroprotection; neurotrophins; physical activity.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / metabolism*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / complications
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / metabolism*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / complications
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Humans
  • Insulin Resistance
  • Nerve Growth Factors / metabolism


  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
  • Nerve Growth Factors
  • BDNF protein, human