Urine test may show risk of mental decline in people with type 2 diabetes

Sept. 5, 2013

A simple urine test may be able to identify type 2 diabetes patients at increased risk for mental decline, according to a new study which was published online in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology. This study of nearly 3,000 type 2 diabetes patients, with an average age of 62, found that those who had persistent protein in their urine over four to five years had greater declines in their brain's information-processing speed than those with no protein in their urine. The decline in patients with persistent protein in the urine was greater than 5%.The findings suggest that protein in the urine, a condition called albuminuria, may be an early warning sign of future mental decline.

Although the study linked protein in the urine with a sign of mental decline in older adults with type 2 diabetes, it did not establish a cause-and-effect relationship. People with diabetes are 50% to 60% more likely to suffer mental decline than those who are not challenged by the disease.

“Our finding was a subtle change in cognition,” says Joshua Barzilay, MD, of Kaiser Permanente of Georgia and the Emory School of Medicine. “However, if this decline were to continue over 10 to 15 years, it could translate into noticeable cognitive decline by the age of 75 to 80, when [mental] impairment generally becomes clinically evident. Given how common albuminuria and diabetes are in the older population, these findings have a great deal of importance from a population point of view. Moreover, albuminuria is also common among older people with hypertension without diabetes.” Read the study abstract.