Diet and Exercise Improve Blood Flow to the Brain for Patients with Type 2 Diabetes

By Allison Kannam

            New findings from a 10-year-long study suggest that Type 2 diabetics who reduce their caloric intake and increase physical activity may experience increased blood flow to the brain. Many individuals with Type 2 diabetes are overweight or obese, and while improving diet and exercise is widely recognized as a method to reduce many of diabetes’ negative effects, its impact on cognition and the brain is not well known. Researchers aimed to establish a clearer link between these interventions and blood flow to the brain given that Type 2 diabetes affects circulation and reduced brain circulation can influence decision-making and cognition.

             Recently, researchers investigated data from an existing 10-year study called Action for Health in Diabetes (Look AHEAD) in which participants learned to implement long-term behavior changes in their lives to improve management of their diabetes. In the first comparison group, the “Intensive Lifestyle Intervention” group, participants aimed to consume 1200 to 1800 calories per day and exercise 175 minutes per week and had frequent follow ups for several years. In the control group, participants completed Diabetes Support and Education classes. At the completion of Look AHEAD, 321 participants received an MRI brain scan.

            Participants in the intervention group showed greater blood flow to the brain, and the researchers believed their findings were most applicable to overweight rather than obese individuals. The Look AHEAD study also incorporated cognitive tests, and researchers noted that participants who had poorer performance on these tests showed greater blood flow to the brain, indicating how the brain may respond to cognitive decline.


American Geriatrics Society. (2017, October 30). For older adults with diabetes, losing weight with diet, exercise can improve circulation. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 13, 2017 from